D.C. police are recruiting 3,600 officers from nearly a dozen other cities and counties to help handle what they expect to be the greatest number of protesters Washington has seen since the Vietnam War.
Police officials say they need to double their force because they expect as many as 40,000 protesters to descend on the city for the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank at the end of September and beginning of October.
At the last such protests in the District, during the April 2000 meetings, demonstrators clashed with police, and sections of downtown were cordoned off for several days of meetings.
This time, District police say, they expect many more protesters, and they want to handle them and maintain their usual coverage of the city.
Meanwhile, protest organizers said last night that nothing they plan warrants a massive police presence.
In the last few weeks, D.C. police have asked for the largest contingent -- 1,000 -- from the New York City Police Department.
Other departments called for assistance include Baltimore, Charlotte and Philadelphia, said Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer. D.C. police also expect to call area agencies, such as those in Arlington, Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George's counties. State patrol forces from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania will also be tapped, as in the past, he said.
"Reaching out to those other big cities that far away is a new approach," Gainer said. "We wanted to augment the resources we have here. We've heard some estimates that they'll have 30,000 or 40,000 protesters."
Police expect protesters to convene downtown, especially around the World Bank and IMF buildings at Pennsylvania Avenue and 18th and 19th streets NW. "And we'll need to double the size of our agency to handle that while at the same time providing a police presence in the rest of the city," Gainer said.
The protesters advocate various causes and say World Bank and IMF policies victimize workers and contribute to poverty in developing nations. Protests in 2000 were characterized by mass arrests.
Gainer said that it's unclear what jurisdictions will be willing to commit officers and how many they will offer. He said that the department has not ironed out how to pay for the help.
"It will be in the millions of dollars," he said, adding that D.C. police plan to pay the visiting officers' regular salary, overtime, room and board.
Meanwhile, New York officials said they are close to lending their cooperation. "We're taking a look at it," said New York police spokesman Tom Antenan. "It's not official, but it looks like it's going to happen."
He said New York officers would be asked to voluntarily head south for the meeting -- from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4 -- and the anticipated protests.
Antenan said that New York City hasn't offered so many officers in recent memory but that the temporary recruitment, which would be treated like paid detail, would not be felt in the city of 40,000 uniformed officers.
Cmdr. Michael Radzilowski, head of the D.C. police special operations division -- who is to retire Friday after 31 years with the department -- will pass the command to Cmdr. Jose Acosta.
Radzilowski said he expected Washington to see the most protesters since the Vietnam War.
"It's going to be of that magnitude," Radzilowski said.
Gainer agreed, saying, "It will very well be the largest protest group with potential for violent overtones.
"Many of the protesters are strong-willed but have no intention of destroying property," he said. "But there are other groups that are hell-bent on destruction of business property and doing battle with police and trying to bring the city to a standstill, and we won't permit them to do that."
Radzilowski said police have begun to monitor protesters' Web sites to gauge their strength. "All the information that we're getting right now is from the Internet," he said.
He said he hoped to meet with protesters, as he did in 2000, to discuss diminishing the threat of violence.
"Hopefully, we can come to a meeting of the minds," he said.
Protest organizers who could be reached last night said they plan nonviolent, education-focused demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank.
The police "are the ones who are preparing for war and are preparing to create problems. It is not us," said Njoki Njoroge Njehu, director of the 50 Years Is Enough Network, an activist group that is a leading critic of the IMF and World Bank.
Njehu said police overreaction would create a combative environment for what are planned as noncombative protests.
"There's no evidence given what happened here last year that proves that police need to take these kind of excessive measures," Njehu said. "It's way out of scale."
She said police have a false stereotype of the protesters who will be on the streets. She described the anti-globalization protest movement as "grandmothers and grandfathers. It's high school kids. It is rank-and-file union members. It is all kinds of different people."
Organizers said it's too early to estimate how many will take part.
"There's millions, if not billions, who are displaced by IMF and World Bank policies around the world," said Stephen Kretzmann, an organizer with the Mobilization for Global Justice, one of the main coalitions coordinating the protests. "We definitely expect some of them to show up."
Kretzmann said adding officers adds to the potential for police misconduct. "We saw lots of arbitrary arrests last time around . . . lots of police misconduct, and we're concerned," he said.
Protest activities are planned from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, including a mass rally Sept. 30 in downtown Washington.
© 2001 The Washington Post Company