WASHINGTON - Hundreds of activists opposed to the corporate model
for globalization demonstrated in the streets here yesterday to
protest the start of annual World Bank and International Monetary
The protests were mostly peaceful, although the predominantly young
activists occasionally skirmished with the overwhelming police presence
that shadowed them through the day. Police said that about 650 people
among the estimated 1,500 to 2,000 demonstrators had been arrested.
A demonstrator is frisked as she is arrested during a protest
against the start of the annual IMF meetings, in Washington
September 27, 2002. Finance chiefs from the world's richest
nations gathered in Washington under the shadow of war fears
and spiraling oil prices to discuss how to keep a shaky global
recovery on track. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
About 1,700 police came from as far away as Chicago and Macon,
Ga., to help patrol the city during the annual gathering of the
two institutions this weekend, said Sergeant Joe Gentile, a spokesman
for the District of Columbia police.
The protests are expected to continue today when thousands of activists
plan to rally on the Mall before marching past the White House.
The activists were protesting the policies of the World Bank and
IMF, which they argue harm developing countries. Some protesters
also decried the apparently imminent conflict with Iraq.
''We're hoping to make a very loud and boisterous, resounding cry
that will be heard across the country and around the world, a cry
that undemocratic, unaccountable institutions have taken control
of our lives,'' said David Levy of Newton, Mass., an organizer with
the Mobilization for Global Justice, a group that helped coordinate
the weekend's activities. ''We have to wrest that power from the
hands of corporate lobbyists who fill the halls of the World Bank,
IMF, and Congress as well. And we have to forge truly democratic
A different group, the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, organized demonstrations
at different sites around downtown, drawing a couple of hundred
people at each.
''People are against the IMF and World Bank and capitalist policies
without any protections for labor and the environment,'' said Gregg
Mosson, a D.C.-based professional writer holding a sign for passing
traffic that said, ''No More Capitalist Wars.''
The protesters, some of whom covered their faces, hoped to shut
down chunks of the city to tie up traffic, and in a way they succeeded
- the police, many in full riot gear, responded in such numbers
that they themselves shut down surrounding streets.
Early in the morning, a couple of hundred protesters gathered at
a park about six blocks from the White House to march against capitalism.
They went a block down a major street before being diverted by a
police blockade into a side street where authorities bottled them
up. A stand-off followed, punctuated by a figure clad entirely in
black, with his face covered - the garb of the self-described ''Black
Block'' - hurling a pair of objects through the window of a Citibank
branch. Eventually police - holding their clubs horizontally to
push back on the crowd - arrested most of the group, putting protesters
on city buses in plastic cuffs and taking them away.
The scene was played out during rush hour, frustrating bystanders
trying to get to work.
Ben Stanfield, who was unable to get into his office at the National
Center on Education and the Economy, described himself as ''sympathetic
to the cause, but not to the methods.''
''I think they could accomplish a lot more if they actually targeted
the issues and not the people who can't affect the issues,'' he
said. ''Their right to protest ends at my right to get to work.''
A couple of hours later, a similar confrontation took place at
Pershing Park, near the White House. Police, some on horses and
bicycles, surrounded the protesters and slowly closed ranks around
them, eventually arresting everyone in the perimeter. In arranging
the activities, the Anti-Capitalist Convergence had not gotten permits.
A sympathetic crowd, which had not entered the park before police
sealed it off, chanted, ''Let them free, let them free, this is
not democracy'' and other slogans.
''Charges vary from disorderly conduct to crossing a police line,
to demonstrating without a permit, inciting a riot. There's a number
of different charges; it just depends on what they were doing at
the time,'' said police spokesman Tony O'Leary.
A student who had come from Seattle and identified herself only
as Savahn said she felt intimidated by the police presence. ''If
they would allow us to assemble peaceably, it would be far less
of a hassle for the city,'' she said.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company