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The Nation

150 Arrested at World Economic Forum

Meeting: Only about 7,000 protesters showed up in NYC. They were met by 4,000 police.

February 04, 2002|JOSH GETLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — More than 150 demonstrators were arrested Sunday as protests at the World Economic Forum continued for the fourth consecutive day. But police far outnumbered protesters, and the streets remained free of violence.

In the most boisterous demonstration, 87 people were taken into custody for blocking traffic in lower Manhattan, said police spokesman Lt. Brian Burke. Later, police broke up a march of more than 200 members of the Earth and Animal Liberation Fronts, some of whom broke a glass door and hurled a red-paint-filled balloon at an East Side apartment building.

The march was halted about a mile from the forum, and police arrested 67 additional protesters who lay down in the intersection of 60th Street and Third Avenue. Traffic on the busy thoroughfare was tied up for an hour.

The police presence dominated and in some cases overwhelmed the protests Saturday and Sunday, with more than 4,000 officers monitoring the crowds. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, responding to criticism from some protest organizers, said the city was simply "taking every precaution" to guard against any disruptions during the forum's five-day proceedings.

Overall, Saturday's protester turnout--estimated at 7,000--was significantly smaller than the 100,000 who flocked to previous forum meetings in Genoa, Italy, and the 50,000 who showed up in Seattle.

Protesters said there were significant differences between those meetings, which included violent clashes with police, and the New York event.

"We are here to show maximum sensitivity for what happened to this city on Sept. 11," said Jim Thornton, who came from the Pacific Northwest to protest the forum. "Nobody wanted to provoke the New York police, but we had a right to show our concerns about globalism. And that's why we oppose so much of what the World Economic Forum stands for."

Protest organizers conceded that the police had gone to great lengths to permit demonstrations within several blocks of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where the forum meetings took place. In other cities, police kept marchers miles away from the site, inflaming tensions.

Inside the forum itself, some 2,700 members on Sunday focused on problems of the Middle East and the search for peace in Northern Ireland.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said he saw "a ray of hope" for Mideast peace, even as violence and pessimism in the region continues to escalate. He based his beliefs on new indications from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that his forces may finally decide to put an end to terrorist attacks in Israel.

Meanwhile, David Trimble, leader of Northern Ireland's power-sharing government, was heartened that militants are being disarmed and said, "One wants to see it continue."

Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, the political party linked to the Irish Republican Army, said he believes most residents of Northern Ireland "are pleased with the progress we've made thus far."

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