New York Times
April 19, 2000
In This Washington, No `Seattle' is Found, By
Police or Protesters
World Trade Officials Pledging to Step Up Effort Against
AIDS (April 18, 2000)
Financial Leaders Meet as Protests Clog Washington (April 17,
By JOHN KIFNER
WASHINGTON, April 18 -- In the end, Washington was not Seattle.
Much of the credit for avoiding the chaos and violence of last fall's demonstrations against the World Trade Organization is being claimed by the capital's Metropolitan Police, and particularly their seemingly ubiquitous chief, Charles H. Ramsey.
The police formed an impenetrable perimeter around the buildings housing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the objects of energetic protests over the last two days.
But free to roam the streets outside the police barricades, the vast majority of demonstrators, too, were determined to avoid violence.
They marched almost at will through the center of the city, chanting, "More world, less bank," but there were no window-smashing rampages like those by anarchists in Seattle.
As the demonstrations ended, both sides claimed a kind of victory and even a certain grudging mutual respect. The police had enabled the financial meetings to go on, and the city had emerged unscathed.
Protesters from the Mobilization for Social Justice rejoiced that their once obscure objections to international monetary policy were now on the front pages.
"It's a win-win for everybody," Chief Ramsey said in an interview today.
"The bank was able to meet.
The protesters were able to express their views and exercise their First Amendment rights, and we were able to maintain peace.
"We were able to keep ourselves from being the issue," he said of the police.
"That's a very thin line to walk."
But there were complaints today from protesters that those arrested had been held handcuffed for hours on buses and, along with many of those in jail, had been denied food and water.
There were also complaints that bystanders, tourists, local businessmen and a Washington Post photographer had been swept up in the arrests of 600 people on Saturday night.
Chief Ramsey was everywhere, appearing at the barricades at every intersection leading to the bank, chatting with the protesters on one side of the fences, patting his officers on the shoulders on the other.
He even wrestled some of the more determined protesters to the ground.
In one scuffle on Monday morning, someone pulled the four stars from his left epaulet and made off with them, perhaps the most serious assault on authority of the whole affair. Hours later, he was at a barricade clutching a red rose given to him by a protester as lengthy negotiations with a young woman dressed as a tree defused a confrontation. It was agreed that the police would doff their gas masks and open a small gap in their barricade so protesters could be arrested peacefully. (Click here to see photo.)
The key to the police strategy was surrounding and closing off a large area around the bank's headquarters. Then they began picking up the world finance ministers and other delegates as early as 5 a.m., shuttling them from their hotels under guard.
This was in sharp contrast to Seattle, where the police did not establish a protected zone.
The demonstrators, instead, established control over the routes to the meetings. Then the police tried to move them with gas and billy clubs in violence that quickly spread into street fighting.
Alarmed at televised images from Seattle, the police and other officials here spent months preparing, spending $1 million on gear that made officers resemble Darth Vader, which protesters mocked by blaring a "Star Wars" theme.
"They were organized, they had tactics we hadn't seen," Chief Ramsey said of the protesters.
"Our people did a good job of planning and maintaining discipline."
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