Staff Editorial: Protest this

Rule number one for planning an effective protest: make sure your audience is listening. Rule number two: make sure you have a coherent message.

Protesters violated both these rules last weekend, when the International Monetary Fund and World Bank had planned to meet, during a hasty and unfocused campaign against war and a sundry list of social gripes. Their message was heard more by surrounding policeman than politicians and delegates they should target.

A muted campaign at Adams Morgan, other local neighborhoods and a barren Capitol Hill did little to advance activists’ causes. A protest that originally opposed the “injustices” of capitalism mutated into a forum against a range of issues, including racism and the closing of D.C. General Hospital. While this was an improvement from the even more schizophrenic free-for-all of two years ago, protesters did little to advance their cause. Members of the mainstream media paid little attention to the protests, in stark contrast to the April 2000 protests, when up to 40,000 protesters gathered to protest the IMF and World Bank, along with a laundry list of other issues.

Although it is commendable activists exercised their First Amendment rights on issues they care about with only two minor incidents and 11 arrests, their message has largely been lost on the majority of Americans who favor some type of military retaliation in Afghanistan. Those who favor doing nothing have failed to convince most Americans that terror will stop by abstaining from action.

It was understandable when protesters wished to picket outside the areas surrounding the IMF/World Bank meeting. Delegates from around the world were planning to attend, and, after protests in Seattle and Genoa, Italy, escalated, the world was keen to keep a watchful eye on developments. But this weekend, not only were delegates absent from the District, members of Congress were not around either. With the exception of up to 3,000 protesters, Capitol Hill was as empty as GW residence halls.

When the meeting are likely rescheduled, protesters need to do a better job organizing. If protesters pick one platform and speak to one audience, their messages will be heard and possibly accepted by many more people.

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