Background: The IMF, Policy and Protest
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RAY SUAREZ: Through most of the day, police officers outnumbered the scattered protesters on the rainy streets of Washington, D.C.
SPOKESMAN: Back up!
RAY SUAREZ: Small skirmishes erupted early this morning in various downtown areas as anti- capitalist demonstrators tried unsuccessfully to snarl transportation and shut down the city to protest this weekend’s annual joint meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Activists argue the two world lending institutions made up of 184 member nations exploit poor countries with their practices and policies.
YOUNG WOMAN: They serve business interest, they serve capitalist interest, and they aren’t helping people; they’re making poorer countries more poor. They’re ruining peoples lives, and they’re destroying our planet.
RAY SUAREZ: Many of the demonstrators who were arrested during the day were rounded up and taken away on buses. Some protesters complained the arrests were unwarranted.
YOUNG MAN: I think the police presence is completely unjustified. I’ve been witnessing people being arrested who have just literally been in the wrong place at the wrong time; it’s our understanding that people are not being charged; we’ve seen a lot of people very roughed up.
CHIEF CHARLES RAMSEY: We gave warnings. I mean, when you’ve got large groups – a lot of noise and things like that – but we gave warnings – we followed everything by the book.
RAY SUAREZ: Throughout the day, police maintained their barricaded perimeter around World Bank and IMF headquarters just blocks from the White House. Some businesses in the area took extra security steps and closed for the day or the entire weekend. Many who work in the district stayed home.
Attempts to disrupt the business of international economic conferences have become a familiar feature of the meetings since 1999. That’s when some 30,000 labor, environmental and consumer activists shut down a meeting of the World Trade Organization, or WTO, In Seattle, Washington. Dubbed “The Battle in Seattle,” the demonstrations turned violent. Police were also criticized for their overreaction, since most of the demonstrations were peaceful.
Five months later, 20,000 demonstrators flooded the streets of the nation’s capital to protest the spring gathering of World Bank and IMF officials. Police arrested some 1,300 people. The IMF and World Bank were targets again during a September 2000 meeting in the Czech capital of Prague. Violent clashes erupted when 30,000 anti-globalization demonstrators took to the street.
In Quebec City the following year, Canadian officials kept tens of thousands of protesters away from the site of the Summit of the Americas using two-and-a- half miles of chain-link and cement. The sealing off of the historic downtown area was in one of Canada’s most massive peacetime security operations. In July 2001, violent demonstrations, the death of one protester and the rioting that followed, threatened to overshadow the G-8 summit of the wealthiest industrialized nations in Genoa, Italy.
That led organizers to hold this year’s G-8 meeting in a hard-to-reach Rocky Mountain resort in Alberta, Canada. Tight security kept protesters miles away from the summit venue. This weekend in Washington, protesters and police are gearing up for more action as the World Bank and IMF meetings continue through Sunday.