The Seattle police thought they had the situation in hand. They spent months negotiating an agreement with the major protest groups, which they believed would lead to orderly demonstrations.
But one small band of demonstrators arrived with a different plan. When Seattle was standing on the brink, this group, which calls itself anarchist, gave it a shove.
The anarchists were a tiny fraction of the thousands who marched on Seattle. But they were a catalyst. Their hammers shattered any hope that the World Trade meeting could recover from a chaotic start.
The group, from Eugene, Ore., endorses violence against big business. Most members reside in a neighborhood known as Whiteacre and essentially live hand to mouth. They spoke to 60 Minutes II Correspondent Scott Pelley about what they sought to do in Seattle.
Trying to explain their motivation, one member of the group, Shelly (group members declined to give last names) says that it started with a "rage against the destruction of things that are most important and about the survival of the planet and us as a species and every other species on this planet that's being decimated."
The problem, says another, Scott, is that "that property has more value in our society than actual life."
Although they did speak on camera, the four who spoke to Pelley would not, however, admit to having been in Seattle. "We want to pose a credible threat to the biggest, most powerful people in the world," Shane says.
"And when that's the kind of work you want to do, and you want to do it over your whole life, you want to be able to keep doing your work without quickly being apprehended and being sent away to jail for a long time," Shane adds.
Explaining why the group smashed windows of various multinational consumer companies, Shane says the group was trying to make the world's cities think twice about hosting such a conference: "[It's] an economic incentive to not hold meetings like that at all...and psychological incentive to reconsider...the kind of society that we live in that fills our world with Starbucks and McDonalds."
Although the group smashed windows, destroyed property and touched off a riot, its members are not clear about where they stand on violence. Some say they are a nonviolent group; others seem less certain.
I consider...private property to be a form of violence," says Steven. "I consider the state to be a form of violence. I don't think that destroying that which maintains violence to be violent."
"We reject the law," says Shelley. "The law was not decided by us. We are being governed by a system that we do not agree with and we completely reject. Therefore the law means nothing."
This was not the first time the roup has been involved in a riot. On June 18, it staged an anti-technology bash that quickly ran amok.
That day, Thad Buchanan, police captain in Eugene, Ore., found himself battling the anarchists. "They began blocking intersections, surrounding cars, started picking up rocks and filling their pockets. At that point, it was very clear that we were in for a rough time," he says.
Angry neighbors got rough with the anarchists. Tear gas flew and the melee rolled into a city park. Buchanan claims that the anarchists surrounded the police and began to throw rocks. The police had to retreat for a time. "They're dangerous and violent criminals," Buchanan says. "They terrorize innocent people."
The anarchists don't feel warmly toward the police. "Cops lie," says Tim Ream, one of the Seattle anarchists. "It's really unfortunate but it's a normal way of doing business. In fact, police are trained to lie; they're actually professional liars....And not only that, police are all about using force."
Using six cameramen, Ream produced a documentary about the Seattle protest, which exposes the police violence that the news cameras never captured, he says.
"The first people targeted by police were the traditional nonviolent protestors who were locked down," says Robin. "They were the first people to get pepper sprayed, they were the first people to get shot at with rubber bullets; they were the first people to get tear gassed. And the idea - that the police came in to stop people from breaking windows and that's why they used force is - is not true."
By definition, anarchists have no leaders; but many Eugene anarchists look to John Zerzan for guidance. He has written books that advocate the end of the industrial world. "We're seeing the beginning of a new movement after decades of no social movements really."
"There's something fundamentally rotten," he says. "The system has to go." Zerzan advocates the end of industry and technology. Zerzan's views are not far removed from those of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. Zerzan believes the bombings were wrong but he endorses Kaczynski's ideas. Zerzan corresponds "a bit" with the imprisoned murderer.
Many of the anarchists also feel a certain affinity for Kaczynski. "I think he wanted to point out that individuals were inherently responsible for things that were happening," says one anarchist, Emma, speaking of the Unabomber.
"There are people out there that are just like everyone else who are making the decisions to clear cut old-growth forest and are making these decisions happily because their pockets are getting fatter and those people should be held responsible," she says. "I don't think that what he did was wrong."
"You stare at the television, and you see logos, and you're in a daze," says Shelley. "And these symbols pop up everywhere in your life. When that is shattere, it breaks a spell. And we're trying to get people to wake up before it's too late."
Broadcast produced by Nancy Duffy; Web site produced by David Kohn;