Save The Redwoods/Boycott The Gap at IMF-World Bank Protests in D.C.

DC Police Hose Peaceful Protestors with pepper spray at 20th & Pennsylvania

Mary Bull, National Coordinator of Save The Redwoods-Boycott the Gap Campaign, spent an hour negotiating a peaceful end to the tense confrontation with police at 20th & Pennsylvania with Deputy Police Chief Terrance Gainer. This photo was flashed around the world and appeared in dozens of newspapers and web sites on Tuesday.

Washington Post
Protests End With Voluntary Arrests
By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday , April 18, 2000 ; A01

After three months of furious preparations by police and protesters for what many in Washington had feared might be a Seattle-style, tear gas-drenched battle over global capitalism, demonstrations wound down in relative peace yesterday with a negotiated climax involving voluntary arrests.

Police officials and protest organizers both declared victory. The demonstrators succeeded in bringing a good chunk of the city to a standstill for two days and disrupting a workday as police largely stood back and let them march and chant. A few thousand participated yesterday, far fewer than occupied the deserted city streets Sunday.

By the end of the days of protest against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, police had arrested nearly 1,300 protesters, had raided their headquarters and confiscated some supplies and had resorted to pepper spray and baton blows in several confrontations.

Police took credit for maintaining order and protecting the right to protest, while demonstrators celebrated raising awareness about a rainbow of issues connected directly or indirectly to the World Bank and the IMF.

A moment that seemed to sum up a chaotic, quixotic and sometimes scary week came early yesterday afternoon, during a driving rain at a barricade separating police and National Guard troops from thousands of taunting demonstrators. Over a steel, bicycle-rack-like barricade at Pennsylvania Avenue and 20th Street NW, the final stand-down was hammered out by D.C. Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer and a woman dressed as a tree.

"I'm so proud of the men and women of my department and all the law enforcement in this region," said Chief Charles H. Ramsey, "that if I had to do it over again and write a script, I would have written it the same way. I make no apologies for anything that anybody did during this time." Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) also praised the police performance.

Ramsey said the demonstrators were skilled at what they do. "You have to experience it to fully appreciate just how well organized they are, how many different ways they can come at you," he said.

At a news conference late in the afternoon, protest organizers gave themselves high marks and condemned the police for overreacting to generally nonviolent civil disobedience. "I don't know how low the scale goes, but I think the police are kind of below the scale here," said Patrick Reinsborough, an activist with the Rainforest Action Network.

The organizers graded their own effort "A-plus" for bringing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and their policies to the attention of the general public. They said it did not matter that they failed in their specific goal of shutting down the organizations' spring meetings.

The organizers said they had continued the momentum of a movement that first revealed itself during last year's World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. The next round in the struggle, organizers have said, will take place at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

The police spent $5 million in overtime, plus $1 million in new riot protection gear, and began preparing shortly after the disruptions in Seattle. Preparations for the Mobilization for Global Justice, as the D.C. campaign was called, began about the same time. The protesters' budget was about $120,000, plus donations of food, supplies, offices and personnel.

The protesters' message is that the loan polices of the bank and the fund have a range of unintended consequences that may harm the environment, displace native people and lead to cuts in health and education spending in poor nations. Defined by many left-leaning passions, the protesters are united by a shared mistrust of the influence of corporate America.

Washington could not help but pay attention, sometimes with reluctance or irritation. Police cleared 60 blocks of traffic yesterday, after closing 90 blocks during larger demonstrations Sunday.

Asked if he thought the disruption of the city was worth it, Ramsey said, "We didn't lose the city, so as far as I'm concerned, it was worth it."

For many demonstrators, the day began at 4 a.m., when they were supposed to assemble at Dupont Circle for unspecified maneuvers. Police apparently had learned of the rendezvous, because about 10 marked and unmarked cars had the circle staked out. Dispirited, the demonstrators dispersed.

Later in the morning, the seemingly aimless wanderings of protest groups led to meeting up with their peers, and there were scattered confrontations with police.

In one, near K and 18th streets NW, Rob Fish, 21, of Stanhope, N.J., said he was taking pictures of police activity. He said an undercover officer hit him with a billy club, knocking him down. "I got thrown to the ground and hit over the head," Fish said.

Fish was left with a stream of blood running down his face, staining his jeans and green shirt. Several friends tended to his wound.

In another incident, Ramsey and Gainer were momentarily in a tight spot.

They heard a call that officers needed assistance at 18th and I streets NW, and "we went down the street," Ramsey said. "When we turned the corner, there had to be about 200 protesters . . . coming at us, and we attempted to back out, but there was another car coming in behind us--one of ours, fortunately--and so we couldn't. And as we got out of the car, they literally just came right on us, and we had to struggle in order to regain control."

Two students from James Madison University said that police used pepper spray on them while they demonstrated at 20th and I streets NW about 7 a.m. Matt Strugar, 21, said a group was trying to block some delegates and were chanting "nonviolence, nonviolence" when a van full of police pulled up. The officers sprayed him and his friend, Strugar reported.

One man hit by pepper spray, Jonah Zern, of the Student Alliance to Reform Corporations, said: "I was walking in a non-threatening way up to the barricade as a delegate of the planet and a delegate of the ecosystem. I was attacked by the system of power. It makes me aware of how important is the change we are trying to make. I just hope I can get my vision back soon and join people back in the streets."

Ramsey said an officer had mistakenly released a canister of tear gas instead of a smoke grenade after protesters surrounded a police car escorting a bus carrying bank delegates.

Meanwhile, demonstrators began to mass on the Ellipse. The question lingering in the drizzle: What do we do now?

About 700 people divided themselves and formed two huge circles on the grass--one for those who would risk arrest, and one for those who preferred to parade. While Loren Finkelstein, 25, an environmentalist from the District, facilitated a quick meeting in the soggy field, Karen Miller, 29, a labor activist from Detroit, proposed that the arrest group find an intersection in which to confront police and get arrested. There was a brief squabble before consensus was reached.

"I have a problem with getting arrested just to get arrested," said Rae Kramer, 53, of Syracuse.

"Blocking traffic and getting arrested can make a point," someone responded.

With that decided, the groups merged, the arrest-hungry in front, followed by puppets, followed by non-arrest supporters. More joined as they marched to Pennsylvania Avenue and 20th Street NW for the last major act of the campaign. The police barricade there was symbolically important to the demonstrators, who wanted to go on record as crossing it to give their message to the bank two blocks away.

They filled the intersection and the surrounding blocks. Those willing to risk arrest massed up front, as police backed by National Guard troops waited on the other side of the barricade.

Demonstrators tried to climb over the barricade, and police reacted by poking them sharply with batons. Long squirts of pepper spray forced the demonstrators back, coughing and crying and rubbing their eyes.

That was when Gainer and the Tree Lady--Mary Bull, from San Francisco--started talking.

Bull, dressed in a foam get-up with a brown trunk and green boughs, represented a small group that represented the larger group in front. During the negotiations, she had to keep going back to check with her group, while Gainer could make instant decisions--the difference between a consensus organization and a hierarchical one.

The protesters were angry that many officers were not displaying their badges. Gainer said he'd have them put on their badges if demonstrators would stand back two feet.

Bull and Gainer called back and forth across the barricade for about an hour, haggling over the details of an arranged arrest. Bull wanted six gates open. Ultimately, Gainer allowed three barricade sections to be removed, and 11 young protesters linked arms.

Like a wedding coordinator orchestrating the bridal party's march down the aisle, Gainer waved the demonstrators through.

Moments later, a member of a to-be-arrested group handed a disposable camera to Gainer and asked him to take a picture.

Mary Bull was one of the last.

"Okay, folks, that's it," Gainer said.

After those arrested were taken away, many in school buses, about 3 p.m., the crowd moved east on I Street toward McPherson Square. It swelled to more than 1,000.

St. Regis guests took photos. A bike courier whose business was ruined for the day grumbled: "What do these kids have to be angry about? When my family marched for civil rights, we had something to march for."

Police accommodated the demonstrators, stopping traffic wherever they decided to go, all the way to a park at 14th and K streets NW.

A group of about 200 broke off to head up 14th Street, escorted by three police cars. They drummed and shouted, eventually behind a squad car with flashing lights that kept a steady pace for them. They passed more stores and waved at crowds.

The waves were fewer as working-class commutes were thwarted.

At one apartment building, residents opened the window and yelled "Get out of our neighborhood!" and "Get your [bottoms] back home!"

The march quieted; the drumbeats slowed.

Hours later, arrested protesters were led, one by one, before Judge Ronna Beck in D.C. Superior Court to choose their fate. Protest organizers had suggested that those arrested consider withholding their names to force the court to negotiate a settlement for everyone.

Some refused to give a name other than John Doe. Many wanted to be released and pay a $50 bond. Danner Bradshaw, 20, of Mobile, Ala., said he chose to pay the bond because it would be too inconvenient to come back for a court trial.

One young man asked the judge whether he could phone his parents before filing paperwork for release. He needed to ask them his Social Security number.

After being released, the protesters faced another problem: They would have to go to the police training academy in the Blue Plains area of Southwest Washington to get their belongings.

"Let's not walk out here alone, okay?" one young man said as protesters looked onto the dark streets.

"Oh, dude," Bradshaw said, "why do they have to make our lives so hard?"

The following staff writers contributed to coverage of the protests surrounding the IMF and World Bank meetings: Justin Blum, Patricia Davis, Petula Dvorak, Darryl Fears, Patrice Gaines, Steven Ginsberg, Cindy Loose, Phuong Ly, Sylvia Moreno, Arthur Santana, Alan Sipress, Neely Tucker, Steve Vogel, Emily Wax, Martin Weil and Linda Wheeler.

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

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35,000 people peacefully marched to protest IMF-World Bank destruction of the environment and Third World Economies, carrying huge puppets and banners - April 16-17, 2000

Click here to read a New York Times article

San Francisco Bay Guardian
Bank shots
Activists converge on Washington, D.C., for the long-awaited sequel to the battle of Seattle.
By Daniel Zoll

BILL ABBOTT WORKS in General Electric's refrigerator plant in Bloomington, Ind., along with his wife, father, mother, and mother-in-law. Before the year is out, though, G.E. plans to move 1,400 jobs from Abbott's factory to Salinas, Mexico.

That's why Abbott came to Washington, D.C., last weekend.

Abbott wasn't one of the thousands who committed civil disobedience at the Mobilization for Global Justice, which accompanied last week's meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. But he came to town because he sees the connections between the loss of his job and corporate-driven economic policies imposed on other countries by the World Bank and IMF. And it makes him mad.

"Here I am marching with all kinds of groups," he said. "I don't have to agree with them on everything. It's enough that we all agree on one thing: that the American corporation has its hands too deep in the government and institutions like the IMF and World Bank."

The mainstream media largely treated the protests as a horse race - and racked up a loss for the activists when the meetings went ahead as scheduled. But when protesters say they want to "shut down" the World Bank and IMF, they're not just talking about postponing a meeting. They are calling for the abolition of two institutions they say economically devastate poor countries on behalf of foreign investors and corporations. And they are trying to get American workers like Abbott talking about the World Bank and IMF.

Mobilization organizer Juliette Beck of San Francisco's Global Exchange says the protesters' message - that the global economy is being designed to put profit before human need - resonates among many Americans and that protests like these, and those that accompanied the World Trade Organization's ministerial in Seattle last winter, are helping to spark that awareness.

"It was a huge success," Beck told us. "We were able to drag these relatively obscure institutions out into the sunshine of public scrutiny and join with citizens' movements all over the world protesting their unjust economic policies."

It is true that preemptive strikes by the police hindered protesters' efforts to achieve critical mass at any one location on April 16, the first day of the meeting. Tactics ranged from corralling and dispersing small groups of protesters using batons and pepper spray to shutting down the Convergence Center, the mobilization headquarters.

But on the following day, in the pouring rain, well over 1,000 protesters converged near the White House and proceeded on an upbeat, nonviolent march to the bank's 20th and Pennsylvania headquarters. The rain seemed to spark chanters' creativity: "We're here, we're wet, let's cancel all the debt," went one refrain.

The march culminated in a surreal showdown with police outside World Bank headquarters. More than 400 demonstrators were bussed away and arrested after a show of civil disobedience in which they sat down in front of police barricades. Throughout the week, according to the police department, some 1,300 people were arrested for protest-related activities.

The tense but festive standoff at 20th Street and Pennsylvania was a fitting climax to a weekend of colorful marches and mostly nonviolent protests. Innovative props dramatized policy-wonk concepts: A menacing "Structural Adjustment Pulverizer," a cardboard contraption with moving parts and massive jaws, symbolized the structural adjustment programs with which the IMF forces borrower countries to liberalize their markets and slash public services.

Thomas Master of San Francisco's radical street theater group Art and Revolution wore a three-headed puppet displaying the visages of WTO chief Michael Moore, World Bank president James Wolfensohn, and former IMF managing director Michel Camdessus.

Despite the generally peaceful vibe, there were scattered incidents of violence throughout the weekend. At 14th Street and New York Avenue Sunday morning, protesters built a makeshift barrier with a wheelbarrow, a shopping cart, steel girders, and other random items taken from a construction site. Police dismantled the barrier and tried to reclaim the intersection but found themselves sandwiched between two groups of demonstrators and beat a retreat. Then hundreds of protesters, led by black-clad anarchists, charged police using a chain-link fence as a shield. The police responded by charging at the protesters on their motorcycles and retaliating with billy clubs and pepper spray.

As happened many times last week, the peaceful contingent quickly took charge. San Jose resident Lisa Hoyos's "affinity group," calling itself Amandala and wearing identical red T-shirts, diffused the situation with a call for nonviolence. "To the police, we come in peace / To the banks, we say no thanks," they chanted.

The affinity group strategy, which worked so well in Seattle, relies on small, independently organized direct-action units, usually made up of about 5 to 15 protesters. These autonomous groups typically appoint spokespeople, who strategize with other affinity groups at "spokescouncil" meetings. Members of Hoyos's group hail from Olympia, Wash., Oakland, Los Angeles, and D.C.

"We don't want our message to be clouded by a couple of violent people," said Hoyos, an organizer with the South Bay Labor Council in San Jose.

Police and puppets

On April 14 visitors could barely squeeze through the bustling Convergence Center. The converted warehouse, which served as the activists' headquarters, was a hive of puppet- and sign-making, bike repair, food preparation, and information tables. Natalie Sullivan, 24, arrived Thursday night with a vanload of activists from Kansas City, Mo. She was so excited she couldn't sleep the night before. "I've never in my life felt such a sense of community," she said. "It was so inspirational. I'm addicted to direct action."

Police closed down the Convergence Center Saturday, saying the crowds violated the city's fire code. Soon afterward, activists say, 200 officers raided the building and forced them onto the streets, only allowing them to take personal items. Giant puppets, banners, medical supplies, and organizing materials remained behind police barricades.

Activists accused the police of trying to break up their organizing plans. Katya Komisaruk, an activists' attorney from the Midnight Special Law Collective, called the act a violation of demonstrators' First Amendment rights. She said she was surprised to see such a show of force "just to keep Washington, D.C., free of puppets." (Some of the puppets were returned later in the day, after activists held a "Free the Puppets" demonstration at the site.)

The closure was a setback, but organizers quickly found an alternative site at the Irving Wilson Center, a large meeting hall. Within hours the new location was packed with activists, many attending a spokescouncil meeting and dozens overflowing onto the street. On the steps outside, organizers shouted scheduling information through a bullhorn.

Minneapolis resident Matthew Smucker, 22, has spent the past several months in Washington organizing the protests. Smucker drew parallels between the police crackdown on the Convergence Center and the World Bank and IMF's record of collaborating with more violent state forces around the world.

"Whether it's through foreign militaries like those in Venezuela or Nigeria or through the FBI or metropolitan police departments," he said, "these unelected global finance institutions are using police and military forces as a buffer between them and the masses of people who are trying to regain basic decision-making power for their communities."

Earth First! activist Julia Butterfly, who famously spent two years in a threatened giant redwood in California's Headwaters Forest, was treated like a returning war hero when she arrived in the crowd of protesters Sunday morning. She said she was headed for a rally by the steelworkers union and stressed the need for alliances between environmentalists and the labor movement. "A sustainable economy can only exist in a sustainable ecology," she told us.

Though the labor presence on the streets seemed far sparser than it had been in Seattle, 15,000 union members came out in force for a Wednesday rally opposing China's entry into the WTO. The AFL-CIO officially endorsed the April demonstrations just two weeks before the event, and even then only signed on for the permitted rally.

Some demonstrators grumbled that the peaceful, permitted march and rally April 16 diffused the direct-action efforts going on elsewhere and that speakers could have used their microphones to help guide those efforts. But the protesters had other technological tools: They should be sure to include Nokia and Sprint when they send out their post-protest thank-you notes. As in Seattle, wireless technology proved to be indispensable - just as ubiquitous video cameras helped keep the cops in line. (This may have been the most well-documented march in history: At times it seemed like the majority of people on the streets - including media, police, and protesters - had a camera of one kind or another.)

The mainstream media - particularly television news outlets - often focused on the violence on the street rather than the economic violence perpetrated by the World Bank and the IMF. But protesters were frequently successful in shifting the focus to the issues; one news story after another plucked an eloquent spokesperson from the crowd to provide a surprisingly coherent explanation of global economic policy. Some might have gleaned their understanding from one of the many teach-ins, debates, and other educational events that preceded the protests.

At these events dozens of speakers from around the world gave first-person accounts of the bank's and the fund's crimes against the poor and the environment. At an all-day teach-in sponsored by San Francisco's International Forum on Globalization, Third World Network Africa director Yao Graham described the IMF's impact on his native Ghana, which has been held up as a poster child for the success of the structural reforms the fund advocates. His country's debt, he said, has increased from $1.2 billion in 1982 to $6 billion in 1999. The country has also liberalized its mining industry as part of a World Bank program, resulting in an explosion in environmentally destructive mining. But, he said, not a single new mine has yet declared a profit for tax purposes.

Early Saturday morning, representatives from 11 third world countries marched to World Bank president Wolfensohn's house and presented him with a list of demands, including cancellation of all debt, an end to structural adjustment programs and privatization, and reparations for affected countries.

Last year in Seattle, President Bill Clinton gave a speech expressing sympathy for the protesters - while his representatives pushed a hard free-trade agenda. Last week the administration once again shifted into feel-your-pain mode. At an April 17 press conference, Wolfensohn defended the bank's record, saying it is doing a "great job." The problem, he implied, is one of public perception: "I think there is a general fear of instability and globalization ... and I like to feel that it is not totally related to the World Bank."

Wolfensohn also said he feared the confrontations would give the wrong impression of the bank's relationship with nongovernmental organizations, which he said had improved greatly in recent years.

But economist, author, and activist Walden Bello, a leading critic of structural adjustment policies, summed up the sentiments of most of the third world-based NGO representatives gathered in Washington.

"We did not come here to dialogue with the World Bank and IMF. We did not come here to negotiate with Wolfensohn," he said. "We came to shut down these institutions."

Alison Hawkes contributed to this report.

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