Protesters converge on World Bank Headquarters

By Alex Kingsbury
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
April 30, 2001

A loud group of nearly 300 screaming demonstrators gathered outside the headquarters of the World Bank on Pennsylvania Avenue Sunday to protest the bank’s international lending policies, its involvement in developing countries, and the propagation of international debt.

The demonstrators, representing an amalgamation of different causes, were untied under the catchall slogan “global justice.” They sought an end to the debt burden on burgeoning economies by the cancellation of debt from World Bank loans. They made their presence known at the spring meeting of the World Bank this weekend.

Police presence was high for the scheduled protest, with uniformed officers manning steel barricades around the building and surrounding streets. The unusual police response came on the heels of last year’s protest in which over 1,000 people were arrested.

“We are out here to see that everything runs smoothly,” Metro Police Chief Charles Ramsey told U-WIRE.

Demonstrators gathered in Edward R. Murrow park, located between the World Bank building and Pennsylvania Avenue. They heard from numerous speakers who led chants and told stories of the realities of World Bank assistance across the globe.

“We are here today to show those people in that building that the people in underdeveloped third world countries have a voice, and they will be heard,” said protester Adriana Keller. “We are loud, and we will scream at them until we are heard.”

Following the speeches, the group marched up Pennsylvania Avenue, through the campus of the nearby George Washington University and around the World Bank building.

George Washington students lined the streets to watch the procession as it made its way through the heart of the campus. About 50 students actively protested, many of whom were members of the George Washington Action Coalition, an on-campus progressive student activist group.

“Students from around the world and around the U.S. are saying no!” said Todd Tucker, a leader of the demonstration and GWAC member. “Look at the police presence out here,” he said. “It is a waste of taxpayer money, of our money.”

Police were vigilant during the event due to the recent heated confrontation between police and Global Justice demonstrators in Seattle, Quebec, and last April’s meeting in Washington. At previous events, police used tear gas and riot control to restrain crowds of demonstrators that got out of hand. Sunday’s action was reserved in comparison.

The protest was one of many in a growing movement that is winning the support of college activists across the country. Despite the well-informed nature of many of the protesters, some are unclear as to what the notion of Global Justice actually is.

“I am not really that up on the specifics of the issues,” said Joe Amalay, a student at the University of Maryland, who carried a sign decrying the World Bank. “I think that if what people are saying about the conditions are true then it is a serious problem.”

Many protesters saw the day as only a stepping-stone to further actions in the future.

“It is good that so many people came out here today,” said Amanda Jenkins, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who was in the city on business and attended the rally. “It is nice to see that so many are wanting to show their solidarity with those who are less fortunate.”

Official estimates for the demonstration predicted as many as 1,000 people would turn out on Sunday, however, the actual turnout was far lower.

“I am still excited to see this many,” said Keller.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings continued as scheduled and plan to continue amid planned protests on Monday.

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