Protest disrupts District

by Aya Mueller

Protesters cheered, danced, kicked and screamed during the marches against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank this weekend, which left at least one person injured.

On Friday night more than 200 people, dressed in black, gathered at Washington Circle. The Metropolitan Police Department brought an equal number of officers to accompany the protesters in an emotionally-charged, unruly march down M Street in Georgetown.

The weekend's protest is held biannualy during the IMF and World Bank conference in the District. Organizers said they opposed actions taken by the government groups, including privatization of public resources, fossil fuel extraction and free trade agreements. Many of the participants call themselves neo-liberalists.

Masked in bandanas and carrying makeshift shields, the protesters chanted, "Resist! Destroy the capitalist!" and "Whose streets? Our streets!"

The crowd threw bricks at boarded-up storefronts, one hitting a bystander who fell bleeding to the ground. Windows were broken at M Street stores such as Abercrombie and Fitch, The Gap, United Colors of Benetton and Starbucks, MPD Captain Jeff Harold said.

Two protesters were arrested for pushing a police officer off a scooter. Another four or five officers fell, police said.

"I am not sure why brick-throwing was necessary," said William Murray, IMF media division chief. "By the looks of things they're not trying to participate constructively like the various civil society organizations that are in town for our meetings."

At about 10:30 p.m., the protests ended on 29th Street when police ordered the group to disperse or risk arrest. The protesters complied.

"This was not a good night," Harold said. "We had people injured, property damaged and officers assaulted."

Legba Carrefour, a protester, said they achieved what they came to do.

"We shut down Georgetown, raised the security cost and raised awareness of our existence," Carrefour said. He added that it was unfortunate a brick was thrown at a bystander, but that the October Rebellion Coalition - the ad-hoc coalition of various advocacy groups who organized the protest - did not call for any violence.

"We are protesting against all the pact that are responsible for deportation and the building of the border," said Marco Del Fuego, an organizer of the October Coalition, referring to the Mexican border fence. "We want to make a statement of outrage at the different economic policies of the IMF."

The mood on Saturday appeared lighter, when more than 100 protesters returned for the people's tribunal, a public condemnation of the IMF and World Bank on 19th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Several were topless or in underwear, dancing and stepping to loud music. Others gave police and the IMF building the middle finger.

"Change your jobs, you're not doing anyone any favors" someone yelled at the officers.

But the initial relaxed cheering quickly turned into a short, heated brawl between police and protesters when delegates attempted to enter through the police fencing.

Several protesters called for a seated protest and peaceful action: "We come in peace. We are not the bad guys," one topless woman said into a microphone.

But police said the situation was under control.

"We never like to see any type of violence," Harold said. "We are here to facilitate peaceful protests but the folk who come in, - dressed in black - that come with violence in their hearts - they're really not here to protest anything but to break things apart. We really don't support that kind of protesting."

Basav Sen a local activist, said these protests only have a limited impact.

He added, "The objective is to use these actions to highlight the injustices of global economy and to make a connection to the same kind of injustice we see here in D.C."

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