IMF protesters take back seat

Hundreds of protesters peacefully gathered outside the World Bank and International Monetary Fund headquarters Saturday afternoon to protest globalization. The scene was a far cry from protests two years ago that drew thousands and captured national headlines.

This year, tens of thousands of demonstrators in the District marching against the war on terrorism and for the Palestinian cause caught the nation’s attention, as only pockets of anti-globalization demonstrators could be spotted when groups converged on 18th and H streets for a march to the Capitol.

Protesters accused the IMF and World Bank of catering to corporate interests and providing little help to developing countries. They decried a number of conditions placed on states, including the mandatory repayment of loans. Protesters are split over goals, some advocating for the abolition of the organizations and others asking for more accountability.

The D.C. protests remained peaceful with little conflict with police, contrasting larger ones in Seattle, Italy and Quebec against the IMF and World Bank that broke into violence in past years.

Annie Lien and Maiji Niemisto, University of Wisconsin-Madison students who were protesting in D.C. Saturday, said the World Bank and IMF should forgive the debts of the poorest developing nations. They also called for the groups to end “structural adjustment,” a process that requires countries to change their domestic policy to receive loans.

Tarak Bach, who works for the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, called for World Bank reform.

“We want to control globalization, not stop it,” Bach said.

Some protesters said they were upset that the Palestinian Solidarity march and other pro-Palestinian demonstrations in D.C. Saturday took away attention from the issue of globalization.

“It’s hard to march for your own cause when other causes are mixed into it,” Niemisto said. She said the Palestinian protesters “have a stronger and louder turnout.”

Other protesters outside the IMF/World Bank summit were glad the Palestinian demonstrators added to the day’s climate.

“If you’re for social justice, you have to include Israel and Palestine,” Bach said. He said all of the issues represented Saturday are connected.

One consistent complaint among protesters is that the World Bank and IMF protect the interests of global corporations, while the nations to whom they lend sink into increasing debt.

Chelsea Hime, another University of Wisconsin-Madison student, called the long-term goal of the World Bank and IMF “corporate colonization.”

William Murray, a spokesman for the IMF, called the protesters’ allegations “a hyperbole.”

“We don’t lend to corporations. We lend to countries,” Murray said. “We support the countries’ programs, not the corporations’ programs.”

But Jessica Zippin, a D.C. resident who was protesting Saturday near the meetings, said corporations often “devastate communities and environments.”

Hime said a large problem is that few people know much about the role of the World Bank.

Lien said she hopes media coverage of crowds protesting encourages people to learn more about globalization.

Emily Joseph, a student at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Va., said the protestors are widely stereotyped a
“granola-crunching hippies all coming together to play drums.”

Joseph said the media usually focuses on several “irresponsible and militant protesters” who misrepresent the movement. Joseph said the movement actually seeks an end to violence.

“The more and more you hear about these issues, there’s more and more anger, but all we’re looking for is peace,” she said.

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