IMF meetings present calmer side of protests

A first-person account from the inside of the International Monetary Fund building.

Beyond the protesters and the barricades, the eye of the storm – inside the International Monetary Fund building – was perfectly calm.

The meetings in the IMF building were the focal point of Sunday’s protests. Outside the perimeter of the building, relations between citizens and the police were tense. On the inside, the atmosphere was affable and orderly.

But getting inside wasn’t easy. Protesters had formed a human chain on the perimeter several blocks away from the IMF building. They said their goal was to prevent delegates from entering the meetings, but the only people they seemed to prevent from entering were the credentialed media. Each time a member of the press approached the human chain, protesters would affirm, Hold the line! The press was allowed inside the building, but the mass of chanting people prevented them from gaining access.

People attempting to get on the inside tried to force, argue and bite their way through the crowd. But some used more civilized tactics. Protesters said they were blocking the sidewalks to show solidarity to protect basic rights. Members of the press argued that they had the right to pass them on a public sidewalk, and they had the right to freedom of the press. Some protesters saw the logic.

Heavy security greeted visitors who were entering the building. In the pressroom, nearly every major news organizations from around the globe had set up camp. Phones were ringing, keyboards were clicking and there was a cameraman group chatting and watching the tube. Outside, police officers were adorned in riot gear. Inside, the security sported suits and told jokes. Big-screen TVs were placed strategically to announce upcoming press conferences.

Around 4 p.m., Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey held a press conference. About 150 members of the press fired off questions to the chief. Ramsey said no tear gas had been used, but police had used smoke bombs and pepper spray.

After leaving the conference, the meeting’s delegates were boarding buses to return back to their hotels. Walking out, delegates conversed with members of the press and security. As their buses pulled away from the IMF building, the crowd, which had spent the day protesting the delegates’ presence, did not seem to notice the delegates at all.

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