Small Turnout For D.C. Protests

Demonstrators against International Monetary Fund-World Bank policies march in Washington Saturday, Sept. 28, 2002 after a rally at the Washington Monument. AP

Threats to shut down the nation's capital and disrupt meetings of world financial leaders went unfilled Sunday as three days of demonstrations wrapped up much the way they started: with smaller-than-expected, peaceful gatherings.

Still, protest organizers contended their goals were met. Needed attention was drawn, they said, to those opposing war with Iraq, seeking more money for global AIDS research and calling for changes in world economic policies.

"It's been a highly successful couple of days," said David Levy, a protest organizer with the Mobilization for Global Justice. Levy was the only demonstrator to show up for a scheduled Sunday morning news conference to evaluate the weekend of demonstrations.

Police had prepared for as many as 20,000 demonstrators. During the largest event, on Saturday, several thousand protesters filled five city blocks as they shouted opposition to policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which were holding their annual meetings.

Levy said the anti-globalization movement has drawn public scrutiny to the policies of those financial institutions, which demonstrators say harm the environment and worsen conditions for the poor in underdeveloped countries.

"No, we didn't change the state of the global economy," said Zoe Baldwin, 21, a college senior from Garfield, N.J. "The main purpose for most of these demonstrations, it's basically a huge outreach tool."

The final major event of the weekend was an anti-war march scheduled to end Sunday afternoon outside the residence of Vice President Dick Cheney. Several hundred people gathered in Washington's Dupont Circle for the start of the procession.

Meetings of global financial institutions have been a magnet to violence-scarred protests since 1999, when anti-globalization protesters clashed with police in Seattle. In April 2000, Washington police arrested about 1,300 people during demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank.

Last year's fall meeting of finance officials was canceled after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, so protesters called off their plans. Many held anti-war demonstrations instead.

Protests in Washington during the April meetings were peaceful and focused on issues ranging from the war against terrorism to U.S. policy in the Middle East.

The World Bank and IMF scaled back this year's September meeting from a week to two days to trim security costs. The finance ministers return to Washington in the spring, but next year's larger annual fall meeting is to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Demonstrators had threatened to shut down the city Friday by blocking traffic with a march, a mass bike ride and other actions to protest war and capitalism. Disruptions were minimal, although several clashes with police occurred, and windows were broken at a downtown Citibank office. Police arrested 649 demonstrators.

Saturday's demonstrations passed off with little trouble, except two men and two women who refused to identify themselves were arrested on illegal weapons charges near the end of the demonstrations. The four were found with smoke bombs and an explosive device that the police described as a coffee can filled with nails and explosive ordnance.

Organizers with the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, which advocated the capital's shutdown, said they were heartened that threats of problems apparently caused many workers to stay home Friday, lessening traffic and business activity in downtown Washington.

On Saturday, demonstrators sought to "quarantine" the World Bank by preventing international delegates from leaving. Small roving bands of protesters ran from intersection to intersection, using their bodies and multicolored yarn strung among light posts to block streets around the police security perimeter.

Police mostly worked around the demonstrators, however, directing traffic around their blockades or occasionally dragging protesters out of the ways.

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