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April in Washington - IMF/World Bank Protests

14 March 2000

Protesters Denounce IMF Meetings

By HARRY DUNPHY, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Opponents of globalization of the world economy threatened Tuesday to try to shut down meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank next month, but said they wanted to avoid the violence that paralyzed Seattle during last year's World Trade Organization session.

Both institutions said they were prepared to talk with the protesters but were drawing up contingency plans to prevent disruptions of their sessions here on April 16 and 17 that draw finance ministers, central bank governors and other officials from 182 nations.

The activists said they expected tens of thousands of people from around the United States and abroad to come to the capital for demonstrations that will include blocking streets or buildings in an effort to prevent officials from attending their meetings.

They will also hold teach-ins, parades with giant puppets ridiculing the IMF and World Bank from April 9-17 to build on the momentum they said they established in Seattle.

They will lobby members of Congress on their opposition to the globalization of the world economy, as well on issues such as debt forgiveness for the world's poorest nations.

The protest groups view the IMF and the World Bank, both based in Washington, as institutions whose programs have failed these countries while enriching corporations and degrading the environment.

Demonstrators, including U.S. labor unions, will use the occasion to fight the Clinton administration's efforts to secure congressional approval of normal trade relations with China.

One of the organizers, Nadine Block of the Mobilization for Global Justice, the umbrella group for more than 250 organizations involved, said, ``nonviolence and no property destruction are guidelines being emphasized in training sessions'' for those who will lead the protests.

Asked at a news conference if officials would be blocked in their hotels as they were in Seattle, Block replied, ``It's possible.''

Graylan Hagler, a minister at the Plymouth Congregation of the United Church of Christ in Washington, said he was concerned about reports District of Columbia police had received riot control equipment and training.

``We are committed to nonviolence but we hope the police are equally committed to protecting the rights of free speech,'' he said.

District police said they have put together a team to prepare for the demonstrators and will not allow the capital to be shut down. Police Chief Charles Ramsey has attended a recent FBI seminar on the lessons of the Seattle disorder.

In a speech at the National Press Club, World Bank President James Wolfensohn defended his organization's record, admitting some mistakes had been made but a lot of good had been done as well.

Replying to a question about the planned protests, he said ``Demonstrating is useful but I would prefer sorting things out in discussions.'' He has met several times in the past with nongovernment organizations critical of the bank.

IMF spokesman Thomas Dawson said, ``We are reaching out and look forward to talking to anyone who wants to talk to us. We have attempted to maintain a dialogue and some (groups) do respond.''

He said these efforts would continue but as a precaution the IMF, which organizes the spring meetings, had held talks with local authorities to develop contingency plans if protesters try to shut down the meetings.

Dawson and other IMF officials have declined to go into detail on security arrangements but said they have to be sensitive given what happened in Seattle.

For more info check out : Mobilization for Global Justice Web site:

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