Protesters of all stripes – environmentalists, human rights activists, anti-capitalists, labor groups, and other concerned citizens – representing over 200 organizations will be going to Washington DC for the meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund the last week of September, to draw attention to the issues surrounding corporate-led globalization. Demonstrators demand that the World Bank and IMF forgive the debt of Third World countries, and stop funding projects which, they say, harm the environment and benefit the rich at the expense of the poor.
Washington DC city officials predicted in a news briefing that 100,000 protesters would descend on the city for the World Bank/IMF meetings, and that the activists would jeopardize peace in the city.
The Washington Post reports that, in a letter to the White House requesting $30 million for security, Mayor Anthony A. Williams warned President Bush of demonstrations “of an intensity, scope, and magnitude that we have never seen in this city.” The mayor’s letter, the Post informs us, was released at a news conference from which protest organizers were barred. The city plans to recruit more than 3,000 police officers from other East Coast cities to assist with security.
In response to the mayor’s request, the Bush administration announced that it would not pay the entire $30 million the District expects to spend. Negotiations continue; as of now, the federal government has agreed to pay more than 50 percent of the $30 million. Faced with a shortfall, the city has asked the two international development bodies to cover the difference between what the federal government will pay and what the city will spend – something, the two groups said on August 21, that they will not do.
As a consequence of the security precautions already announced, attorneys and organizers for several protest groups have asked the US District Court to enjoin authorities from surrounding key sections of the capital with nine-foot-high hurricane fences and concrete barriers. Such ‘exclusion zones’, they contend, are in violation of the protesters’ Constitutional right to assemble on sidewalks, in streets and in public parks. The suit names Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, the District of Columbia, the director of the National Park Service, and the federal government as defendants, and complains that police have refused to issue demonstration permits.
Protesters also alleged that the high crowd predictions are an attempt by government officials to deny them the demonstration permits, although Chief Ramsey has claimed that he got the figures from the protesters themselves. Activists have repeatedly chided DC police for forecasting disturbances, insisting that the police and their tactics are in fact the cause of violence in what would otherwise be peaceful protests.
Brian Becker, co-director of the International Action Center, one of the main organizing groups, questioned Ramsey’s statements during a C-SPAN news conference. “We’ve never used the figure 100,000. That’s the figure Chief Ramsey has been using in the media, at the same time that he’s trying to paint a picture that civil war will soon descend on Washington DC.”
For more coverage of this story as it unfolds, refer to the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center web site. During the protests in Washington DC, reporters from the U-C IMC will be filing reports from the field on this web site.
More information on the protest and how you can get involved can be found at the following web sites: