WASHINGTON – Students from around the country began arriving in the nation’s capital Friday, ready to protest the actions of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund during their weekend meetings.
Outside the World Bank headquarters Friday, Peter Graif, 19, sat and watched with two friends as police barricaded the building. He traveled all night from Amherst College in Massachusetts and will be spending the weekend sleeping on a gymnasium floor.
We just realized this is the first chance to get our voices heard, Graif said. What the World Bank is doing isn’t fair to the rest of the world.
Looren Finkelstein, an event organizer for Youth Speak Out, said the organizations protesting will highlight the concerns of students, at the high school and collegiate level.
These are some pretty incredible students that are going to be speaking, she said.
Many other student groups are protesting this weekend, each touting issues on their agenda. By protesting the meeting, organizers of the student group Free the Planet said they want to bring attention to the IMF and World Bank on a national level.
These institutions work on a global level, but they don’t answer to anybody, said Finkelstein, who also works for Free the Planet, a student organization concerned with protecting the environment..
Roger Newell, a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said that while the international organization will not be participating in the direct action plans for the weekend, individual members will be attending.
We are concerned about admitting China (to free trade status), he said. Newell said that the teamsters main concern was that many companies would switch their production to factories in China. It would undercut labor in the United States and put working families out of jobs.
While this weekend will heighten the attention to the actions of the two organizations, Newell said that the union continuously pressures companies who are moving out of the United States and lobbies Congressional members. He said after the weekend, the teamsters will continue these actions.
Chris Walsh will be on the other side of the protests this weekend. As a communications associate for the World Bank this recent William and Mary College graduate said he thinks a lot of the protesters do not understand the key issues.
I think a lot of research has not been done on some people’s parts, said Walsh, 26. I think some people know what they are talking about and try to strive for the purpose they think is right.
He said he feels the protesters and World Bank employees are all fighting for the same thing.
If their goal is saving the poor, then we are on the same team, he said.
A French major in college, Walsh said he wanted a job that had an international flavor, and since working at the Bank, he has gained a more idealistic view of its goals.
I want to be able to come home at night and say I tried to make a difference and in some small way help the poor and developing nations, Walsh said.
On the street outside the World Bank, as the media waited for the protests to begin, Graif and his friends sat and watched.
I think college students are interested in issues that represent structural problems, he said. It’s a common ground for a lot of issues. There’s a place for you voice to be heard here.