Op-Ed: Police pose danger, not protesters

It is important to focus on the issues surrounding World Bank and International Monetary Fund policies as the demonstrations against the organizations draw near. But the recent decision by the University to shut down for five days during the planned demonstrations and Monday’s Hatchet staff editorial (“Closing campus”) citing “protester violence” as a reason to flee town at the end of the month require us to consider the role of the police in events of this magnitude.

The vast majority of those coming to D.C. to protest come in the spirit of non-violence. Massive representation is expected from international labor unions, cooperatives of farm workers, environmental activists and student groups. Delegates will travel from all corners of the world with a unified message to democratize the World Bank and IMF, pressure the organizations to relieve third world debt and end structural adjustment in developing countries.

What, then, is the justification for the police preparations? The Metropolitan Police Department has requested $38 million to ready the city for the upcoming protests. A nine-foot barricade will be erected around the buildings’ perimeter, and police are equipping themselves with futuristic suits of armor that cost $2,500 per officer. MPD has lodged requests for reinforcement with departments in Philadelphia, New York and Maryland. The District is activating the U.S. Park Police, FBI and National Guard. Also possibly invited to join the chaos are NROTC battalions from GW and Georgetown University.

The absurdity of the inclusion of this last group should be obvious. Journalists scrutinizing police handling of protests at the Group of Eight summit in Genoa, Italy, found that police beat protesters and fatally shot a protester with live ammunition. The primary reason for the violence was a lack of experience on the behalf of law enforcement. Why would MPD want to imitate this practice?

This question might be easy to answer, given the department’s dubious actions at IMF protests last spring. MPD used fraudulent evidence to shut down protesters’ convergence centers and arrested groups of people en masse without regard to whether they were demonstrating. My former roommate was run over by a policeman on a motorcycle attempting to disperse a large group of bystanders. She and a friend were seriously injured. In comparison, the isolated incidents of protester violence – a couple of destroyed cars and an overturned dumpster – seem miniscule.

Consider these facts when evaluating the issue of student evacuation from dorms, given that the GW decision was made by order of MPD. It is clear that the safety of all involved is not MPD’s first priority. Despite this fact, students should not stay away from the demonstrations. Defending our University through our continued presence decreases the ability of the police to undermine our freedoms.

-The writer, a junior majoring in American studies, is former Hatchet production manager.

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