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Notes on World Bank/IMF protests and BMD conference


I have returned to Vancouver from Washington DC and wanted to provide you with this brief report on my activities in the US Capitol during a tremendously successful week of protests and organizing.

Steve, International Network on Disarmament and Globalization, Canada.

For an up-to-date report on the situation in Washington, visit http://dc2.indymedia.org


17 April 2000

This week's protests in Washington DC (http://www.a16.org) built upon the experience gained from Seattle. Demonstrators were peaceful and very well coordinated, which provided a stark contrast to the actions of the police. The entire central core of downtown Washington DC was turned into a police state by rows of police officers, squad cars, fencing and helicopters (revealing the true face of corporate globalization). Demonstrators were not intimidated by the police and faced down potentially explosive situations on several occasions, while enduring many incidents of police violence.

Ultimately, we were not successful in preventing the World Bank/IMF meetings themselves, nevertheless delegates were forced to take extraordinary measures to get into the meetings. On the advice of police, most delegates arrived at the World Bank/IMF headquarters in the dark of night before the protests began at dawn. Others had to take elaborate routes on special police buses to bypass protests. Many delegates travelling by limousine or foot were turned away by demonstrators at street blockades. The delegations of France, Brazil and Thailand were turned away by demonstrators, and had to be "smuggled" into the meetings by police bus.

Several organizing and educational meetings were held with the activists who had come to Washington from around the world. A teach-in organized by the International Forum on Globalization drew more than 2000 participants, requiring two overflow rooms. Strong representation from Southern organizations in Washington provided new opportunities for learning and discussions on positive alternative models for the global economic system. Furthermore, the World Bank/IMF protests shifted the focus from the First World to the Third World where the damaging effects of corporate globalization are felt hardest.

While I haven't had a chance to review a large sample of media coverage, initial reporting that I have seen has been very evenhanded, and in some cases sympathetic toward our concerns. This could be explained in part by the fact that many reporters were attacked by police themselves, but it's equally likely because the evidence of corporate globalizations' terrible impact on the environment, human rights, peace, and other areas is becoming hard to ignore.

The World Bank/IMF protests have shown that citizens' groups are committed to challenging the corporate globalization in the long term that Seattle was not just a one-time event. Meetings such as the WTO, World Bank, IMF, and other global financial and military institutions will continue to provide focal points for our organizing and actions to develop the movement and push our agenda forward.

April 14th - International Forum on Globalization Teach-In An increasingly common feature of these protests are preparatory teach-ins to share the latest research, proposals, and perspectives on corporate globalization. Some of the most successful of these teach-ins have been organized by the San Francisco-based International Network on Globalization (http://www.ifg.org).

The full day-event on April 14th at the Foundry United Methodist Church (whose congregation includes Bill and Hillary Clinton) featured more than thirty international speakers on topics ranging from Structural Adjustment Programs, communications, militarism, human rights, and more. More than 2000 people attended the event, and I participated on a panel examining the global impact of global communication and military systems.

The highlight of the event was during the evening's last panel when Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians (http://www.canadians.org) introduced Carlos Oliveri of Bolivia who had just arrived in Washington. Carlos Oliveri is a factory worker who led a successful citizens' revolt last week against the World Bank and the Bechtel corporation, who together with the Bolivian government were privatizing local water supplies and exacting huge fees for basic, vital drinking water. His David and Goliath story of how the people drove out the World Bank and Bechtel nearly brought down the roof, and provided an inspiration for the weekend's protests.

April 15th - Keep Space for Peace Conference The militarization of space and the rapid movement toward the deployment by the US of a Ballistic Missile Defence system (AKA National Missile Defence, or NMD) was the topic of an international conference held in Washington on April 15th. More than a hundred people from nearly a dozen countries participated in the conference, which was organized by the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (www.globenet.free-online.co.uk).

The conference opened with an inspiring presentation by Members of Congress Dennis Kucinich. A committed peace activists and high-profile opponent of the Yugoslav war, Kucinich presented reasons for his own opposition to missile defence and the militarization of space.

Bill Hartung of the World Policy Institute (http://www.worldpolicy.org/project/arms) called on activists to confront the corporations perpetuating the BMD fraud on the public. Billions of dollars of contracts will be given to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, and TRW to construct the system which will provide no greater security to the US and will jeopardize international peace and Russian relations.

Dr. Helen Caldicott also gave a fiery presentation against missile defence. She called on citizens to take action with the knowledge gained from the conference.

April 16th - World Bank/IMF protests.

I have heard estimates that about 50,000 people participated in blockades and the labour rally on April 16th. While it is difficult to count people spread across such a large area, I would agree with this estimate. This is in comparable to numbers in Seattle, but there were many more people prepared to risk arrest in direct actions. The mainstream media will provide a great deal of information on the protests themselves, but I would also recommend visiting the Independent Media Centre's website (http://dc2.indymedia.org) to get an insider's view.

Myself, beginning at 6:30 AM I attended the blockades where doubles lines of police and demonstrators surrounded the nearly fifty square blocks that formed the huge security perimeter around the World Bank and IMF headquarters. On several occasions I witnessed government delegates and even police who tried to break demonstrators' lines being forced to turn back. In two incidents, demonstrators put themselves in front of police vehicles to prevent them from crossing lines. The lines held throughout the day, until the last line was removed at about 6:30 PM.

I also participated in the labour rally in the afternoon which drew more than 10,000 people to hear speeches and music from a stage erected near the White House. At the time of writing this report, demonstrators are gathering for a second day of protests - this time more focussed rather than spread over the entire perimeter of the security zone.

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