WORLD TRADE TALKS: Break-in reveals activists' capacity for disruption sessions warns of activists' to Break-in disrupts

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The Independent Online
PROTESTERS HOPING to close down the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle scored their first small victory yesterday. Secret service agents reported a security breach at the Convention Center and forced delegates to stand outside for several hours while they checked the whole building meticulously.

With all Seattle gearing up for a monumental stand-off over the future of global capitalism, the agents said they had discovered an overnight break-in at one door and found other internal doors taped open. Yesterday's sessions were delayed by more than two hours.

The incident was more inconvenient than threatening but suggested that protesters had the wherewithal to bring the WTO meeting to a grinding halt. In addition to trade unionists, environmentalists and others who will lead a massive demonstration against the WTO's policies, a number of more radical groups have vowed to lie down in the streets and spring other civil disobedience surprises in protest at what they see as the triumph of corporate profits over individual and global well-being.

Yesterday the so-called battle in Seattle was joined in earnest as squatters, church leaders, building-scalers, environmentalist banner-wavers and even a disgruntled French farmer grabbed the limelight.

During the night, activists took over an abandoned block of flats not far from the Convention Center, vowing to house up to 300 protesters and call attention to poverty and homelessness. Yesterday morning environmentalists put the finishing touches to a 30ft-high dolphin balloon and about 100 sea turtle costumes for a parade to highlight the risks to rare marine species under new seafood trading regulations.

And Jose Bove, the farmer famous for pulling the roof off a McDonald's in France, was setting up a stand of fresh Roquefort outside a fast- food restaurant to protest at the global spread of genetically modified "Frankenfoods".

With a grand public gala planned to coincide with the WTO's official opening banquet in the evening, the atmosphere appeared more festive than threatening. "Our party will be free, open to the public and a lot more fun," said Lori Wallach, director of the anti-WTO Global Trade Watch group. Despite a flurry of protests over the weekend, such as banner-burnings outside downtown chain stores, police have yet to make an arrest.