IMF Protests Met With Police Presence
Washington Post 27sep02
[Police arrest 649 during capital demonstrations AP 27sep02]
[Trapped in Freedom Plaza]
Anti-capitalism protesters hoping to shut down Washington this morning staged scattered demonstrations in a downtown abandoned by much of the city's workforce and populated with a large police presence.
AP photo: Evan Vucci
Some of the demonstrations, which have been timed to correspond to the weekend of annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, resulted in minor property damage and clashes with a police force that surrounded – and significantly outnumbered – the activists.
Police said they had arrested between 530 and 600 people during the protests, most during mass arrests on downtown street corners. D.C. police do not give out crowd estimates, but it appeared that most of today's demonstrators ended up wearing plastic handcuffs – there were perhaps 200 or 300 who participated but were not arrested. Most of the arrests were on misdemeanor charges.
One minor injury was reported.
The protesters' stated goal of significant rush-hour traffic snarls didn't materialize, in part because traffic in and around the city was lighter than normal. Police had said they were concerned about these protests, that they expected 20,000 protesters during the weekend and had urged commuters to ride Metro trains instead of driving today. On Metro, though, ridership statistics suggested that many who work in the District's federal core simply opted to stay home.
At the Federal Triangle Metro station, about 4,430 passengers exited by 8:30 a.m. By that time on an average Friday, about 7,500 passengers emerge from that station.
After a scattered number of incidents, including tires on fire, a suspicious device in a road, the day's first mass detentions came about 7 a.m., when 21 were arrested for lying in the road at 14th Street and Independence Avenue, near the bridge. Nearly an hour later, about 300 protesters who had gathered in Franklin Square marched to K Street and Vermont Avenue, where they were surrounded and stopped by police officers in riot gear. Two members of an anarchist group, wearing black bandannas across their faces, threw rocks at a Citibank building, breaking the windows. About 40 people were coralled and put on Metro buses and taken to a cellblock at D.C. Superior Court or the police academy in Southwest Washington.
One 19-year-old protester was hit with a baton and suffered a bloodied nose. She was treated at George Washington Hospital and released.
A bicycle ride intended to disrupt traffic began about 30 minutes late, at 8 a.m. at Union Station, but attracted 75 activists and just as many police on bicycles, on motorcycles and in cars. The riders proceeded through downtown for little more than hour without incident. The procession was stopped by police at Pershing Park, near 15th Street and Pennsylvania Ave., where a couple hundred fellow activists had gathered.
Police on foot, bicycle and horseback formed a tight perimeter around the protesters at Pershing Park and Freedom Plaza, not allowing activists to leave the areas. Activists and bystanders caught inside the perimeter complained of the detainment and suggested police were overreacting to the threat.
Joseph Mayer, 69, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who lives in Alexandria and works in the District, approached the police line at the corner of 15th and Pennsylvania and was among those caught inside the line of officers.
"They closed Freedom Plaza and turned it into a non-Freedom Plaza," he said. "They have turned the Constitution off."
The day's events seemed to draw to a close with a protest at the Gap story in Georgetown. About 300 people showed up and a dozen protesters, carrying signs saying things like "Stop Gap's Sweatshops," stripped to their underwear. There were no arrests because the demonstrators and the police had reached a deal beforehand.
That was clearly not the case at the earlier protests, where the arrests seemed to mark a changed tactic by police. At other recent protests, D.C. police had followed a hands-off policy, wearing windbreakers instead of riot gear and avoiding making arrests. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey walked among protesters, in some cases stepping in between cops and demonstrators during tense moments.
Today was different. From about 7:30 a.m., when the group of 100 demonstrators left Franklin Park and then massed at K Street and Vermont Avenue NW, police were out to lock people up, using overwhelming manpower.
In most cases, the reason for arrest was generally that the protesters had blocked traffic and failed to obey orders to return to the sidewalk. In most cases, protesters did not resist arrest, walking single file onto buses that took them to the D.C. police academy for processing.
Ramsey said that the difference, this year, was protesters' threats to disrupt traffic and damage property.
"The intent of this group is to shut down all D.C.," Ramsey said, watching the last group board buses out of Pershing Square. If the protesters were set free, "they leave here and go someplace else and do something else."
Overall, traffic in the area appeared to run well during the day.
Main arteries from Maryland into the District, including the Capitol Beltway, were unusually light during the rush hour, with few delays reported, authorities said.
Various patches of roadwork slowed some of the traffic on the Beltway, between College Park and the American Legion Bridge, but no major accidents or demonstrations slowed the morning commute.
Maryland State Police troopers and county police agencies braced themselves for interruptions and slowdowns on the most heavily traveled roads, and said they were pleasantly surprised that nothing materialized. They said they are likewise ready for for the afternoon traffic.
Virginia State Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said none of the early protests spilled into Virginia and that the morning commute was light.
Troopers were stationed at each of the bridges connecting the District and Virginia and officers who would normally end their midnight shift at 6 a.m. stayed several hours later to assure that the rush hour flowed smoothly, Caldwell said.
Metro official reported that ridership was light too. By 9 a.m., 184,200 passengers boarded trains. By the same time last Friday, the ridership was 191,300. Of Metro's terminal stations, only Branch Avenue and Franconia-Springfield saw an increase in ridership, said Jim Gallagher, Metro's deputy general manager for operations.
"From the passenger's perspective, it was a normal day," Gallagher said, adding that train operations ran smoothly. No stations were particularly crowded, and Metro officials did not extend rush hour service past 9 a.m.
Trapped in Freedom Plaza Interview with a Protester
Transcribed by Mindfully.org from online audio
Reporter: I'm Michael Bruneau, with Washington Post.com. I'm in Washington D.C. at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th. I'm with Sue Bastion, of Bend, OR. She's one of the protesters who's been caught inside a ring of police in the park next to the White House. I'd like to ask Sue a little bit about what brings her out today.
Sue: I'm here to protest the IMF and World Bank and also to protest the war in Iraq.
Reporter: In particular, what is the message you'd like to get across about the IMF and World Bank.
Sue: That their policies are totally destructive to country after country around this planet. And that it is unconscionable that we are using the military to enforce these policies.
Reporter: Now, you've come from Bend OR, which is a long ways to go. When the you arrive? Will you be here all weekend?
Sue: I arrived here on Tuesday, and they'll probably be here until next Tuesday.
Reporter: How did your day start today? Where did you start?
Sue: I started in Maryland, where I've been staying. And took the Metro down here. I intended to join the earlier group at 7, to do snakes through the town. But I overslept. So, now I'm trapped here in Freedom Plaza, surrounded by the police state. And I consider that rather ironic to be trapped by the police in Freedom Plaza. (Laughter)
Reporter: What do you expect to accomplish today, assuming you can get out of the park?
Sue: There's a march at 11. It's a march for justice. (Laughter) I think it's going to be rather abbreviated because the cops are moving in closer and closer. And of course, without the cops and the military, the policies of the IMF and the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, basically, the foundations of capitalism would never ever survive.
Reporter: One last question for you. What do you think about how successful you and the other protesters have been about getting your message across.
Sue: As far as success is concerned, I don't think that's the point with me. The point is that I am opposed to this, and so I will to whatever I can do to express that and to resist this movement toward military globalization around the planet.
Reporter: that was Miss Bastion of Bent OR. She is one of several dozen, and probably hundreds of protesters here in the park, trapped near the White House, inside a cordon... a line of police who have done a very good job of quiet in the protest.
In another video by Washington Post.com, the police chief stated that they had over 500 arrests.
Police arrest 649 during capital
against globalization, other causes
DAVID HO / AP 27sep02
WASHINGTON -- Protesters opposed to war, capitalism and global trade policies clashed with police Friday as finance ministers from around the world began a weekend of meetings. More than 600 people were arrested, and one protester was slightly injured.
The protesters had threatened to shut down the nation's capital but caused only minimal disruptions to the morning rush as they snaked through the city on foot and on bicycles, waving signs that said "End Corporate Greed" and "Drop Bush not bombs." Police Chief Charles Ramsey estimated that 1,500 to 2,000 people participated in the rolling demonstrations.
"The whole world is watching," some protesters chanted as they were being arrested.
All the protests occurred blocks away from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund buildings, where meetings began inside a cocoon of fences, closed streets and police.
Of the 649 demonstrators taken into custody, five were charged with destruction of property; the rest were charged with failing to obey a police officer or parading without a permit, Ramsey said.
Police on motorcycles and horses corralled hundreds of protesters in a grassy area a few blocks from the White House. Demonstrators and legal observers said police made no effort to disperse the crowd and refused to let people leave before beginning the arrests. "They took out not just activists, they took out bystanders, they took out tourists," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer with the Partnership for Civil Justice, which sued the city over police tactics during demonstrations two years ago.
Among those arrested was the executive director of Greenpeace, John Passacantando, who said he was just riding his bicycle to work near the demonstration. Passacantando spoke Thursday at an environmental rally outside the World Bank.
Ramsey said the arrests were justified. "We gave warnings," he said. "We followed everything by the book."
Other demonstrators were arrested after windows were broken at a downtown Citibank office.
In the afternoon, a dozen protesters stripped to their underwear while standing on the stump of a redwood tree they had placed across from a Gap store in Washington's Georgetown district. The self-described "Gaptivists" chanted "we'd rather wear nothing than wear Gap" and accused the company's owners of being involved in logging and running sweatshops.
"There are injustices going on all around the world, and the Gap and the IMF and the World Bank are all a part of it," said Anna Gennari, 21, from St. Louis. "It would be worth getting arrested if the message came across."
Gap Inc. did not immediately return calls seeking comment Friday.
Patrick Reinsborough, an organizer with the Mobilization for Global Justice, said plans were moving forward for a larger rally and march Saturday. The group wants the financial institutions to cancel Third World debt and end economic policies they say harm the poor.
"We've called for peaceful, dignified, nonviolent, creative actions," Reinsborough said.
Ramsey said officials were expecting 10,000 to 20,000 demonstrators Saturday.
Many commuters heeded officials' advice to avoid driving into the downtown area Friday, leaving many streets empty and silent.
At one downtown intersection, protesters chained themselves together to block traffic. Other demonstrators danced in the street with mud and leaves smeared on their hair and clothes. Firefighters put out a few tires set ablaze on the outskirts of town. Police also contended with a barrage of fake 911 calls.
In April 2000, police arrested about 1,300 people during demonstrations opposing the financial institutions and their policies.
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