Published on Tuesday, April 18, 2000 in the Boston Globe
Post-A16: Corporate Globalization Opponents Look To Future
by Anne E. Kornblut
WASHINGTON - As a two-day protest against world financial institutions ended yesterday without major incident, a number of demonstration organizers said they were already looking ahead to coming events, promising to stage at least one more large-scale disruption before the end of the year.
Activists have long planned to protest in Prague this September, when leaders from industrialized nations, are scheduled to meet. Closer to home, some protest organizers are also setting their sights on two of the most significant political gatherings of the year: The Republican and Democratic conventions, which are expected to draw thousands to events on both coasts.
The plans, and the discussion of them yesterday before protesters had even finished their efforts to disrupt World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings here, underscored a growing concern among financial institutions and law enforcement officials that the loose protest movement born out of Seattle last fall was beginning to take a more enduring shape, and could complicate major events for years to come.
''This is really only the start,'' said Deborah Rephan, program director for Environmental Media Service, one of the hundreds of organizations that joined the weekend demonstrations. ''I think that this is the beginning of a movement. No one who is here is going to start to unknow what they've started to know. This mobilization has started to shed light on these organizations for the first time.''
Officials at the World Bank and IMF successfully completed their spring round of meetings, finishing up yesterday with a discussion on the impact the spread of AIDS is having on the developing world, followed by a working lunch meeting on debt relief for Third World countries, a spokesman said. On both topics, the delegates emerged promising to do a better job assisting the poor and the diseased.
US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers also spoke, encouraging the joint IMF-World Bank development committee to adopt reforms proposed by the Clinton administration. But the formal events were largely overshadowed by the chanting demonstrators outside, whose presence forced delegates to leave their hotels under heavy police security, and, in some cases, as early as 5 a.m.
Many officials, particularly those from the World Bank, continued to question why protesters would try to prevent meetings where topics of AIDS funding and Third World debt were being addressed. But they seemed relieved that talks concluded without any disasters on the scale of the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle last fall, when rioting protesters disrupted proceedings.
''The thing that we wanted more than anything else was to avoid a confrontation, particularly because it would send a wrong image as to what we were doing with civil society,'' World Bank president James Wolfensohn said.
Still, with as many as 12,000 people wandering downtown streets during rush hour in the drizzle, there were bound to be clashes with police.
At one point early yesterday, police fired a tear-gas grenade as protesters tried to block delegates from entering their buildings. Washington Police Chief Charles Ramsey later said the tear gas was a mistake. The officer intended to fire a smoke grenade instead, Ramsey said.
More than 200 people were arrested yesterday, many for alleged disorderly conduct and assaulting police officers. Several people were found to be carrying nails, as well as homemade concoctions of urine and bleach to be tossed at police.
As Washington police continued their efforts, law enforcement officials from other cities, including two members of the Boston Police Department, observed in order to plan for possible protests in their own areas. Both the Los Angeles Police Department, responsible for guarding the Democratic Convention in August, and the Philadelphia Police Department, which will guard the Republican convention in July, sent contingents, according to Peter La Porte, Washington's director of emergency management.
''When you have significant institutions, there will always be a significant threat of demonstrations,'' La Porte said.
Protesters gathered here seemed delighted at the prospect of continuing their battle in other cities, during other events. Beka Economopoulous, an organizer for the Mobilization for Global Justice, one of the lead agencies this weekend, said the future demonstrations were ''on everybody's radar screen.''
''People have definitely been talking about, `What is our next step?''' Economopolous said. ''There are a few next steps. They are all aimed at resistance to corporate globalization efforts.''
In preparation for the Prague protest, demonstrators have already applied for, and been denied, legal protest permits, according to one official. That has hardened the resolve of many groups to attend, the official said.
''They call this `Seattle 2,' and I think it's true,'' said Steve Iskovitz, 39, of Watertown, a counselor for the mentally ill who rode the train down for the protests. ''I think every time the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO try to meet, there's going to be opposition to it.''
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