Posted 12 a.m. Sept. 30 Protesters swarmed downtown D.C. streets Saturday to begin a weekend of anti-war demonstrations during two days once slated for protests against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Park police on horseback and Metropolitan Police officers in riot gear surrounded about 500 protesters at a morning rally near Union Station. Anti-Capitalist Convergence, group that originally planned to protest practices of the IMF and World Bank, hosted several speakers at 10 a.m. in Upper Senate Park next to the Capitol building.
Sam Jordan addressed the crowd representing International Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamar, an anti-death penalty group that promotes civil disobedience.
Protesters then marched to the World Bank building at 18th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. MPD contained the rally and did not allow demonstrators to enter or leave the area for about 45 minutes.
Crowds shouted “Where’s Darth Vader?” and hummed the “Imperial March,” Darth Vader’s theme in Star Wars , to officers in black uniforms, body armor and riot helmets with full facemasks.
Police then opened barricades and allowed protesters to converge with marchers from International A.N.S.W.E.R. in Freedom Plaza at 13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue at about 1:30 p.m.
About 2,000 people rallied with the group, recently formed by the International Action Center to “Act Now to Stop War and End Racism,” carrying signs reading “No to Blind Retaliation” and “Bomb them with Butter.”
Members of an anarchist group called the Balaclava Brigade wore bandannas and scarves around the lower half of their faces. Other protesters wore helmets, goggles and construction masks to protect against pepper spray.
Police arrested 11 demonstrators throughout the day, MPD officials said. Officers arrested three protesters at 15th and H streets for crossing a police line, which is considered disturbing the peace, MPD reported. MPD public information officers did not immediately have information on the charges in eight of the arrests.
MPD said officers used pepper spray on protesters who sat on top of a police cruiser on H Street between 11th and 12th streets. No injuries were reported.
Emergency medical technicians attended individuals who appeared to be affected by pepper spray on an 18th Street sidewalk. One EMT pushed news photographers away as two others attended to the victims.
Many protest organizations shifted their cause from anti-capitalist to peace and tolerance after the IMF and World Bank canceled meetings in light of security concerns following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and New York’s World Trade Center.
“Priorities have changed,” said Emily Kramer, a student from the New School University in New York.
D.C. resident Alex Wolf was handing out newspapers to support the communist Progressive Labor Party.
Wolf said he was demonstrating to educate about the “evils of capitalism.” Originally planning to protest at the IMF and World Bank meetings, Wolf said his mission had not changed and he was still opposing “terrorism perpetrated by capitalist all over the world.”
Some said they did not plan to protest until after the Sept. 11 attacks, when demonstrators and organizations began focusing on preventing violence and racism.
Sorur Amighi, an Iranian teacher from New York, held a banner reading “Palestinian Right of Return” and said she was not planning to protests before the terrorist attacks.
Amighi said she came to D.C. to protest the “possibility of war” and attacks on Arab-Americans after U.S. intelligence officials reported suspected terrorists are of Arab descent.
Sam Yellen, a member of the New Jersey Independents, said the causes are related.
“It is the IMF and the World Bank that are causing the malcontent in the world,” he said. “This is causing other countries to turn against the U.S. and the Western powers.”
–Mira Katz contributed to this report.