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Police in D.C. and Globalization Foes Clash

Protests: More than 600 activists are arrested as demonstrations are staged ahead of weekend meetings of delegations planning to discuss IMF, World Bank policies.

September 28, 2002|RANDY TRICK, ARIANNE ARYANPUR and EDDY RAMIREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WASHINGTON — Phalanxes of police arrested more than 600 anti-globalization activists Friday as finance officials from around the world gathered to address the needs of their increasingly intertwined economies.

As officers in riot gear clashed with hooded activists in the streets, advocates of poor countries assailed the policies of the rich inside the barricaded quarters of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Delegations from 184 nations will meet today and Sunday to review the IMF's efforts to help countries in crisis and the World Bank's programs to alleviate poverty in the developing world.

The two institutions have become lightning rods for public discontent about the increasing flow of goods, services, investments and jobs across international borders. Hundreds of advocacy groups have found common cause in their opposition to the forces of globalization.

The Anti-Capitalist Convergence, a group that advocates confrontational protest tactics, organized Friday's short-lived effort to shut down the nation's capital.

Hundreds of activists heeded the call. One group formed a slow-moving bicycle caravan. Others set out on foot to block traffic on major thoroughfares. More protesters gathered in a downtown park to pound drums and stage a group "die-in."

But their plans were largely thwarted by 3,000 police officers, who corralled entire groups of protesters, dragged them off one by one and placed them under arrest.

Also arrested were several journalists and Greenpeace executive director John Passacantando, who said he was riding his bike to work when police stopped him.

"They had no business in the street," Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey said. "You can't just take over Pennsylvania Avenue.... We took the action that was appropriate."

No demonstrators or officers were seriously injured, Ramsey said.

The first skirmish occurred about 7:45 a.m., when a black-clad, masked protester spray-painted "class war" on the window of a Bank of America office, and another threw handfuls of ball bearings through windows at a nearby Citibank.

A two-deep line of police officers penned in the protesters, handcuffed them with plastic tie-wraps and herded them into a Metro bus for the trip to central processing.

Police arrested another group of about 50 protesters outside a Greater Atlantic Bank outlet, charging them with jaywalking and blocking street traffic as they paraded down a main avenue blowing bubbles and weaving webs of yarn.

Traffic was stalled at several intersections as the marchers, many covered in mud and wearing leaf wreaths, spilled into the street and tied yarn around traffic lights.

In nearby Georgetown, protesters packed the sidewalks in front of a Gap store to denounce the company's use of low-wage foreign labor and clear-cutting of redwood forests. Half a dozen demonstrators, mostly women, stripped to their undergarments and chanted, "We'd rather wear nothing than wear Gap."

"It was to create a bit of spectacle, but also to call people's attention to the massive monster Gap has become," said Wahab Al-Gatami, 33, who traveled from Colorado to participate.

About 80 protesters took part in the bicycle procession, which was trailed by a larger group of about 100 officers on bikes, motorcycles and in cars.

The bike riders eventually joined another group of protesters at a downtown park.

Later, officers on horseback and on foot surrounded the 300 or so protesters and began arresting them one by one. Police used wire cutters to separate their bicycles, which had been chained together, and then loaded them onto a police van.

Inside the IMF and World Bank compound, the United States, Europe and Japan were attacked for adhering to protectionist policies that undermine the economies of poor countries.

Some of the sharpest criticism came from IMF and World Bank economists, who issued a report detailing the cost to developing countries of the subsidies, tariffs, quotas and other trade barriers imposed by wealthy nations.

By restricting the ability of Third World countries to produce goods for export, the rich nations exacerbate the very problems they are attempting to address with debt relief and development aid, the economists said.

The average European cow receives about $2.50 a day in taxpayer subsidies, World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern noted, while 75% of the people of sub-Saharan Africa subsist on less than $2 a day.

"It is hypocrisy to encourage poor countries to open their markets while imposing protectionist measures that cater to powerful special interests," Stern told reporters. "Rich countries should lead by example."

Oxfam America, a nongovernmental relief group, issued its own analysis accusing the United States of creating depression-like conditions in world cotton markets by paying domestic farmers to overproduce. U.S. subsidies cost African cotton farmers $300 million a year, Oxfam calculated.

The financial woes of the developing world are expected to be a central theme of this weekend's meetings. Global financiers are under pressure to help Argentina find a way out of its economic morass and to ensure that Brazil does not experience a similar fate. They are being asked to deepen their commitment to Third World debt relief and other poverty-reduction programs.

Finance ministers from the Group of 8 industrial nations were expected to consider proposals to improve their crisis response capability, measure the effectiveness of development aid, and restrict the flow of funds to terrorists. U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill said he would raise those issues during G-8 talks that continued into the evening Friday.

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Times staff writer Warren Vieth contributed to this report.

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