Scores of protesters from across the country swarmed onto GW’s campus Sunday in an unpredictable and sometimes volatile demonstration.
Demonstrations ranged from dancing and singing along with drumbeats, to chanting during marches, to skirmishes with Metropolitan and University police departments.
Protesters, many of whom were attempting to close Sunday’s International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, blocked intersections and formed human chains across campus, diverting traffic and heckling some pedestrians, students and tourists who attempted to walk through the Foggy Bottom and downtown areas of the city.
Chanting peace, love, unity, respect, no more power to the IMF, a group of nearly 30 protesters sat in a human chain in the intersection of 23rd and H streets for half an hour while cars attempting to pass through the intersection were forced to turn around.
Closer to the World Bank and IMF buildings, protesters created their own street blockades with balls of yarn, puppets and drums.
Buildings and University property were damaged during the demonstrations when protesters spray painted the walls of Funger Hall, shattered the back window of a UPD car and overturned dumpsters in the middle of G St.
Obviously it’s unfortunate it happened, but we’re just glad it wasn’t worse, said Barbara Porter, director of public affairs. Porter said when protesters took mulch from a parking lot, they promptly returned it when asked by University officials.
A busload of MPD officers, decked out in riot gear, used smoke grenades to disperse a flood of protesters, dressed in black and waving flags with anarchy symbols, from G Street. The officers left after a brief stand-off on the corner of 21st and G streets. The protesters then turned over a dumpster and shattered the rear window of a UPD patrol car.
Despite the crowds of police and protesters on campus, some GW students said they feel safe and support the demonstration of First Amendment rights.
I feel extremely safe on the GW campus, freshman Tamara O’Neil said. I haven’t had any problems with police.
Members of the GW a16 Coalition marched to the Ellipse, where they joined thousands of protesters gathered for the only legal protest in the city.
We started at 6:30 a.m., said Chad Gray, a sophomore who marched with the Coalition. Earlier in the day, Gray was exposed to pepper spray near 14th Street and New York Avenue.
It was kind of intense, he said. The way (MPD) has handled this so far has been horrible.
On the Ellipse, demonstrators listened to impassioned speeches and music, while others took the chance to relax and eat.
We’re standing together, protesting together and fighting together, and, by God, we’re going to win this together, said a speaker on the main stage at the Ellipse.
There’s nowhere I’d rather be than in Washington, D.C., protesting this organization that is destroying the lives of so many people, said Susan Strasser, a former GW professor and founding director of the University Honors program. I haven’t seen this broad a coalition for 25 years.
American and women’s studies professor Phyllis Palmer, who participated in the demonstration on the Ellipse, said she planned to incorporate themes from the protest in her lectures.
I’m going to close the semester with (the World Trade Organization) and Disney, she said. If you look at the politics and economics, this is where the action is.
Jennifer Probst and her Francis Scott Key Hall roommate said they had not planned on actively protesting. But after they hung pro-demonstration banners from their second-floor room, they said they couldn’t help but interact with the protesters.
It’s totally amazing, said Probst. After we put up the sign, the people on the street started to cheer for us.
They’re really good people, and they know what they’re doing, she said. They’re like your parents out there. A lot of people have this misconception of these protesters that they’re pot-smoking liberals who don’t know what they’re protesting about, but that’s completely untrue. I feel really good and really proactive. I’m helping to spread the message in a peaceful way.
Protesters said they planned to return to the Foggy Bottom and downtown area Monday to continue their protests.
You don’t know what they’re going to do, and we have to be prepared, said Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.
-Jay Crystal and Zeb Eckert contributed to this report.