By David HoAssociated Press
September 4, 2002
Anti-globalization demonstrators, relatively subdued since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, are preparing a clamorous return to the streets this month when the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meet.
Protest organizers said Tuesday they expect thousands to turn out on the weekend of Sept. 28 outside the Washington headquarters of the global financial institutions. The demonstrators oppose policies they say harm the environment and people in poor countries. Liz Butler, an organizer with the Mobilization for Global Justice, said that since Sept. 11 people in this country feel more in common with suffering people around the world.
"The United States finally knows what it's like to have things so unsure," she said after a news conference. "Last year taught everyone that we have to act now because we don't know what the future holds."
In a protest preview, about 20 members of Butler's group demonstrated outside the World Bank building Tuesday, chanting: "We'll be back and we'll be stronger."
The global financial institutions have already scaled back their annual meeting, from a week to two days, in an effort to trim soaring security costs. Last year's meeting was canceled after the attacks, so protesters called off their plans, with many holding anti-war demonstrations instead.
Protests here during the April meetings of the IMF and World Bank were peaceful and focused on issues ranging from the war against terrorism to U.S. Mideast policy. District of Columbia police did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the coming protests. Earlier Tuesday on WTOP, an all-news radio station in Washington, Police Chief Charles Ramsey said it's not his department's job to protect "a bunch of bankers from around the world."
He said that his department can't afford the $14 million needed to safeguard the meetings and that the federal government should help pay. Ramsey also said he is having trouble getting officers from other jurisdictions to help police the event because it's not clear how they will be paid.
The conservative group Free Republic is planning a smaller counter-demonstration to oppose the anti-globalization protesters. "They're people in search of something to complain about," said Free Republic organizer Kristinn Taylor.
Meetings of global financial institutions have been a magnet to violence-scarred protests since 1999, when anti-globalization protesters clashed with police in Seattle. In April 2000, Washington police arrested about 1,300 people during demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank.
Confrontations last year outside the Group of Eight summit in Genoa, Italy, caused extensive property damage, hundreds of arrests and injuries and the death of one Italian protester who was shot by police.
While calling most protesters peaceful, police have blamed much of the violence on small numbers of self-described anarchists. One anarchist group known to participate in anti-globalization events, the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, said on its Web site that its goal later this month is "not just shutting down the meetings but extending our protests to disrupt all of the institutions headquartered in D.C. that play a part in this system."
The Mobilization for Global Justice, which advocates nonviolent protests and serves as an umbrella organization for a number of activist groups, said it wants the financial institutions to open their meetings to the public and to end harmful economic policies.
The protesters also want Third World debt canceled. "Debt has become a new form of slavery for the developing world," said organizer Marie Clarke. "It's people's lives we're coming out to defend."
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