Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wednesday into Thursday, Big Sky, Montana

The briefest of updates from a cold laptop in a cold van in a cold parking lot in the cold, cold upscale ski resort of Big Sky.

Yesterday, Wednesday, after our snowperson action, our team decided that if we are to stay in our designated protest area, then we will stay in our protest area for the week. We pitched four small tents and a large tarp on the snow-covered parking lot with generous help and support from our allies at the Buffalo Field Campaign and, starting around 7 PM Montana time, began a campout. We are here to show the negotiators that their actions are being watched, that they can't ignore the voices of millions of Korean farmers and workers by hiding out in a fancy hotel. The night was cold but invigorating (you could say). In a group check-in, a representative from the Korea Peasants League, Chun Sung Do, said that the stars here above Big Sky look the same as the stars in Korea and that when he returns, he will look back up at the stars and remember the solidarity and warmth we have generated during this week. This was the sentiment throughout the night as we stayed vigilant until the early morning.

Just before we set up camp, our delegation visited a nearby farm to build solidarity and discuss the situations of small farmers in Korea and in the U.S. Dave and Becky, our hosts, showed us the farm where they raise cattle and sheep and the mill where they produce wool, and invited us into their warm, cozy home to share food and stories. Thanks, Dave and Becky! We even got to work a bit helping them set up the items they sell on their farm to make a living -- a stark contrast to the multinational agricultural corporations that will benefit from the FTA if passed.

A sad occurrence in the late afternoon on Wednesday: somehow, our beautiful snowpeople, our "white allies" as Joohyun called them, were mysteriously knocked over in our absence as we visited Dave and Becky's sheep farm. Of course, it is the true sign of a good ally to keep watch on the front lines as people of color engage in tactical and strategic struggles. Luckily, we were able to rebuild our snow people and snow animals to once again stand with us in solidarity. It appears that even silent, immobile protesters standing in line in a designated protest area cause fear in the hearts of the negotiating teams and their security. But we can't be knocked down that easily!
(We have had numerous other white allies with us this week: in a jeep watching over our tents, in our hotel rooms checking on our equipment, escorting our vans as we travel from place to place even when we didn't ask for it. It's so heartwarming to know so many levels of law enforcement are looking out for our well-being!)

A quick update from this morning: around 8:45 AM, representatives from the Korean Alliance Against the KorUS FTA dropped a colorful banner from the 6th floor of the Yellowstone Convention Center and hotel where the negotiations are happening. It read: NO FTA. The banner stayed up for an estimated thirty minutes while around ten members of our delegation wearing signs, headbands, and other accoutrements staged a silent march and protest in the hotel lobby. They stood in two lines for fifteen minutes as members of the Korean and U.S. negotiating teams entered for the morning's talks with the tension they felt evident on their faces. The rest of our delegation stood in a circle in our designated area, fresh after a cold night's sleep, and listened to a statement from chairman Oh Jung Ryul from Korean Alliance against the KorUS FTA (Koa) before launching into a series of chants loud enough to reverberate into the hotel's entrance 200 yards away. Nice work, everybody!!!

Today's events: at 11, members of Koa will be meeting with the chief Korean negotiator for the FTA in the conference center. We will hold a press briefing at 1 PM with Korean and local media. Finally, throughout today's and tomorrow's actions, we will all be hanging out together in our "Agent Free Zone"/"No FTA Town"/"Designated Protest Area."

Final note: for the New Yorkers out there, tomorrow morning, Friday 12/8 at 7:30 AM, Mario Murillo, recent Eyewitness delegate on a trip to Pyeongtaek, South Korea, will conduct an interview on the morning show Wake Up Call with two members of our delegation, Lee Jang Gun from KCTU (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions), and Yumi Lee from Nodutdol for Korean Community Development in New York City. Listen at 99.5 FM in New York or online at We will be discussing the protests here in Montana as well as next steps in the fight against the FTA in Korea and in the U.S.

p.s. pictures of everything forthcoming

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