Foggy Bottom awoke early to the sounds of motorcades and police sirens Saturday, the first day of a weekend of scheduled protests.
Blocks away, the first demonstrators gathered outside the World Bank in the shadow of a large, inflatable globe with the words “for sale” printed on the side. At 18th and H streets, where signs ranged from “Cannabis smokers are not criminals” to the catch-all “No to war, terror and corporate greed,” D.C.’s streets were a melting pot of issues of the day.
Some demonstrators, however, had very clear ideas on how the practices of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund relate to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and war in Afghanistan.
“Each cause can relate to the other one, and we all give each other power,” said Nasreen Jilani, a student-aged activist who carried a black umbrella with stickers of many of the different causes on it including anti-globalization and anti-war messages including, “We all need to work together.”
Jilani said she arrived from Atlanta with 60 students and activists on four buses.
At one closed intersection, an elderly woman struggled to balance on four-foot stilts while protesting globalization, college-aged males burned Israeli and American flags and an impromptu group of drum and trumpet performers demanded world peace.
Originally planned to concentrate on the World Bank and IMF summit over the weekend, demonstrations took a sharp turn as pro-Palestinian supporters flooded the scene and stole the spotlight from an organized anti-globalization rally in a park outside the World Bank.
The causes met head-to-head as the transition of attention flowed from the anti-globalization demonstrators to the anti-war activists. The drum-and-trumpet group galvanized the anti-war/pro-Palestinian movement and led them directly into the anti-globalization group in the park. As the rhythms of the approaching drum beat interrupted speakers denouncing the World Bank for keeping third-world countries in a cycle of debt, many began to lose interest in the speakers and followed the drummers out of the park.
Although the shift in attention was obvious, many anti-globalization activists did not mind the change and said that all the causes were related.
“All these seemingly different issues are the same issue,” said Jay Marx, a D.C. resident. “People are starting to get it.”
Marx said he supports many basic issues that can be applied to most of the causes being protested. He said the he demonstrated for fundamental democracy and self-determination, nations’ ability to control their own resources and “the right of the developing world to develop at
its own pace.”
Some demonstrators involved said they did not mind the lack of unified voice or were calmed in their enthusiasm. Although the pro-Palestinian movement captured attention throughout the weekend, various groups were still able to march in unity.
“There are a lot of injustices in the world,” said Craig Sexton, an Ohio State University student who traveled to D.C. for the demonstrations. “It is amazing how emotional issues like the ones here today can really bring people together . It is cool that people of such different values and beliefs can get together and express their right to free speech like this.”
Sexton – like many of the other demonstrators who showed up for Saturday’s protest and subsequent march from the World Bank to the National Mall – came with three friends, loaded gear into their car and drove to the nation’s capital for their first major demonstration with no defined issue to protest.
“There are so many things wrong with the structure of society; we just come to show our support for people making a difference,” Sexton said.