Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tuesday and Wednesday, Big Sky, MT

Sorry for the delay in updating -- the power in the hotel went out briefly last night, cutting off our wireless access!

Yesterday was a day of negotiating space with the four (count 'em, four) different police forces dealing with us here in Montana (federal, county, and private). The picture above shows our "designated protest zone" in the resort. As you can see, it is in the corner of a parking lot behind the hotel and convention center (visible in the distance). We have been asked to refrain from setting foot anywhere else in the resort. Young Choe, media contact extraordinaire, shows how he feels about this order...

Tuesday morning, Dec. 5, 9:30 AM, Big Sky Resort.
We began the day with another press conference directly in front of the hotel (against the orders of the police). Using our voices, hands, drums, whistles, and noisemakers, we chanted, yelled, and sang songs to once again demonstrate our opposition to the secret FTA negotiations being held up in the conference center within the hotel. After several statements, we began a slow, solemn march to our "designated protest zone."

Tuesday afternoon was a time for meetings between small groups within our delegation with a variety of local forces. First, a small group including Koreans, KAWAN members, and representatives of local progressive organizations met with the staff of Montana Senator Baucus at his office in Bozeman. Senator Baucus is the one who invited the negotiators to Montana to hold their talks here this week; he is a strong proponent of free trade. In the meeting, our delegation discussed with his staff the reasons why we oppose this FTA and asked them to deliver our message to him directly. The second meeting was again held in Bozeman with members of our delegation and a local carpenters union to show and build solidarity between Korean and U.S. labor against free trade.

Tuesday, 9:30 PM, Candlelight Vigil, Big Sky shopping plaza
Our candlelight vigil was scheduled for 9:30 PM to be held simultaneously with massive protests in Korea against the FTA. At the same time that we lit our candles and sang songs for our evening action, tens of thousands in Korea took to the streets: around 10,000 farmers and 20,000 KCTU (Korean Confederation of Trade Union) members came out all over Korea to demonstrate their resistance to the KorUS FTA. Given this situation, it just would not have been right for us to meekly stay in our "protest zone" in the corner of the parking lot! Instead, we converged in the shopping area adjacent to the negotiators' hotel and conference center and sang songs, danced, and chanted as police watched us like hawks. At the end of the vigil, we were once again told in no uncertain terms that beginning Wednesday morning, we would not be allowed to go anywhere in the resort other than our tiny protest area. Mmmm...we'll see about that.

Wednesday morning 9:30 AM, Snowperson action.
As we drove up to the resort this morning to kick off the day with another peaceful, nonconfrontational, legal protest, the county sheriffs decided to escalate their anti-demonstration repression, sandwiching our three vehicles right at the only entrance to the resort, turning on their sirens, and barring us from entering. We were told that the only way we could enter the resort would be with a sheriff escorting us to the designated area. I might add that we had done absolutely nothing wrong or suspicious, and had a sort of fun and playful action planned for the morning. After an impromptu press statement delivered by Chun Sung Do from KPL at the side of the road with the sheriffs breathing down our necks, we were escorted to the parking lot/designated area bound off by yellow caution tape. As we gathered in our generously given protest zone, we thought to ourselves: what would help? What would lift our spirits and increase our power? More numbers!!!

More pictures of our snowperson action are forthcoming. Suffice it to say that even snowpeople and snowcreatures recognize the destruction that the FTA will bring for the South Korean people.

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