While there were counter-summits and demonstrations at international summits in the 1980s, for example in West Berlin, or against the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in the 1990s, it was really the World Trade Organization (WTO) Summit in Seattle in November 1999 that launched the tradition of anti-globalization demonstrations. Of course, other phenomena preceded the famous Battle of Seattle: the Zapatista uprising on January 1, 1994 (the day the North American Free Trade Agreement - NAFTA - came into force), the civil disobedience campaigns against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), the "street-parties" of the anti-capitalist environmentalists of Reclaim the Streets in London, the demonstrations against the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Vancouver, etc.

The Battle of Seattle was important because it offered the opportunity to launch the first branch of Indymedia, and because it brought together the various tendencies that would later mobilize at each major alterglobalist demonstration-- the mass unions and non-governmental organizations (ATTAC, Greenpeace, Oxfam, etc.) that organized a People's Summit and a large "unified" demonstration boxed in by a powerful security service, anti-capitalist groups that practice non-violent civil disobedience (sit-ins, banner unfurling, etc.), and anti-capitalist groups that destroy private property and confront police forces (street parties, Black Blocs, etc.).

Other anti-globalization mobilizations followed in quick succession: in Washington and Prague in 2000 (International Monetary Fund and the World Bank), in Quebec City (Free Trade Area of the Americas - FTAA), in Gothenburg (European Union), and in Genoa (G7) in 2001. While the attacks of September 11, 2001 came as a shock even to alterglobalists in the United States, mobilizations have continued, especially in Europe and outside the West. 

The Blocks and the diversity of tactics

The first experiment in dividing demonstrations into color zones seems to have been tried in Prague, in September 2000. One zone was reserved for the Black Block, another for the White Coats (activists covered in padding who tried to push the police around with the force of their bodies) and the last for the Pink & Silver Blocks consisting of giant fairies and a street band. It was the latter that finally managed to sneak through the streets and get close enough to the convention center to force its evacuation, thus putting an end to the meeting.

A few months later, in anticipation of the demonstrations in Quebec City, the Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes (CLAC) and the Comité d'accueil du Sommet des Amériques (CASA) developed the principle of "respect for a diversity of tactics", which consists of accepting that an anti-capitalist mobilization can host various forms of demonstration at the same time. A red zone-- open to confrontation with the police (high risk of arrest), an orange zone - also very close to the security fence, open to non-violent civil disobedience actions (sit-ins, throwing toilet paper over a fence, etc.), and a green zone for resting and regrouping. In addition, the principle of respecting the diversity of tactics prevents various radical tendencies from criticizing and denouncing each other in public, which only played into the hands of the authorities and the police in the past. While the police did not always respect this division into zones (obviously), the strategy was a success for anti-capitalist movements.

Environmental summits or greenwashing parties

In 1992, the Earth Summit in Rio, Brazil, organized by the United Nations, welcomed political figures and about 650 non-governmental organizations. Here we are 30 years later, and all environmental indicators are in the red... This likely explains the size of the youth climate movement, with school strikes and demonstrations of several hundred thousand people in some cities, including Montreal. At the 15th Climate Change Conference (COP) in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009, there were demonstrations of 50,000 to 80,000 people in very cold weather. Of course, there were still tensions between reformists and radicals, and arrests by encirclement sent nearly 1,000 people into custody. Defending the planet comes at a cost... At the COP in Paris in November 2015, Black Blocks trained for the demonstration, after weeks of alarmist rhetoric from authorities. More recently, there were several groups still demonstrating in Glasgow and in Great Britain during the COP26 summit (26th conference of the UN member "parties"), in 2021. And in Montreal in December 2022-- how many of us will turn out in the streets?

We are an image of the future

In 2000, the young alterglobalization movement predicted that neoliberal globalization, led by these big international summits, would lead to catastrophe. A generation later, the catastrophe has arrived: a series of imperialist wars in the name of the "war on terror", the financial crisis of 2008, worsening inequality, corruption, and accelerating climate change. These large international summits for the climate and for the planet have, every time, mobilized thousands of people in hundreds of delegations, since 1992-- and where are we now? During anarchist riots in Greece, Black Bloc activists declared: "We are an image of the future". The struggle will only end with either the end of the elites, or the end of the world.