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Seattle WalkForCapitalism

In yesterday's WalkForCapitalism, it was left to the true believers and pro-capitalist watchdogs to weed out the real capitalists from the fake...
Seattle WalkForCapitalism
Seattle WalkForCapitalism
Monday, December 03, 2001 - 12:21 a.m. Pacific

Protesters' spoof? What a capital idea!

By Caitlin Cleary
Seattle Times staff reporter


In yesterday's WalkForCapitalism, it was left to the true believers and pro-capitalist watchdogs to weed out the real capitalists from the fake, dressed as they were to the nearest thrift-store approximation of capitalist chic: suit jackets, ties, argyle sweater vests, their hair evenly parted and smoothed, holding signs that read "Capitalism is Better than Democracy."

It was Capitalism Day, or D2 the first Sunday of December, set aside by a global pro-capitalist campaign to celebrate and promote capitalism, globalism, technology, free trade, individual rights and private property and lo and behold, the anti-capitalist, anti-globalization, anti-WTO protesters were crashing their party.

Seattle was one of 100 cities around the world that hosted WalkForCapitalism. Its participants spoke admiringly of capitalists such as Bill Gates and Thomas Edison, and held signs that read, "Make Money Not Class War."

Tom Szalay of Everett, a retired firefighter, said the protesters might want to think about getting jobs and joining capitalism.

The crowd of about 100 people seemed evenly split between the earnest capitalists and the World Trade Organization protesters in capitalist drag.

"We knew they had something in the works," said Tym Parsons, the Seattle coordinator of WalkForCapitalism. "Their aim was to infiltrate our organization and discredit it by way of parody."

The downtown event was like performance art: Faux capitalists, dressed in suits, carried signs that read, "Child Labor Is Best For America: Smaller Hands Mean Tighter Stitches" and distributed fake business cards from "Globex Industries" with the company motto, "We Own You." They remained poker-faced as they spoke about their support of child labor and love of capitalism.

Relentlessly serious throughout the march, they never got out of character.

If the anti-capitalist interlopers did not completely overshadow the original intent of WalkForCapitalism, their parody did make the event more of a spectacle.

Anti-capitalist protester Scott Thompson was explaining the goings-on to passer-by Kerry Pflugh of Washington, N.J., in town for a conference.

"I find it all very amusing," said Pflugh. "I don't think I've ever seen a protest for capitalism before. Don't these people already have what they're fighting for?"

Because the WalkForCapitalism organizers did not get a parade permit, police escorted both groups together from Benaroya Hall to Westlake Park, while Parsons shouted at the WTO protesters to leave. Parsons' group had obtained a permit for the rally at the park, and once everyone had arrived there, police began to remove the anti-capitalist protesters.

"But I'm for capitalism," said a protester who called himself D.S. Rosenthorpe. "How much does it cost to get in?" he asked, offering up one dollar.

He did receive a park-exclusion notice barring him from all downtown parks for seven days. There were no arrests.

"We have the authority to enforce park rules," said Seattle police Lt. Daniel Whelan. "Our mission here is for life, safety and the protection of property."

A few of the fake capitalists were convincing enough to be left alone in the rally crowd. When asked if they were capitalists, they responded with a firm nod and a barely perceptible wink. Sometimes they smiled and yelled "Hippies!" back at the group of protesters from whence they came.

The obviously fake capitalists were sent across Fourth Avenue, where they lined the sidewalk in front of Borders bookstore and sang and shouted, "Shop! Shop! Shop!"

And shop the people did. Even before the rally ended, the streets were crowded with shoppers, burdened with bags from Old Navy and Nordstrom.

Caitlin Cleary can be reached at 206-464-8214 or at  ccleary@seattletimes.com.



Copyright 2001 The Seattle Times Company