Thousands of demonstrators are set to converge on the District this weekend to protest the war in Iraq and international lending policies.
The demonstrations, slated to coincide with the twice-yearly meeting of World Bank and International Monetary Fund officials, will be accompanied by anti-war protests, as demonstrators plan to voice their disapproval of an “unfair and unjust war.”
Scores of students will be joining demonstrators this weekend to protest everything from the war in Iraq to deficits in Latin American countries.
Bernard Pollack, a graduate student and member of the Progressive Student Union, said it is imperative not to let World Bank and IMF policies be overshadowed by the war in Iraq.
“It’s important not to ignore the effect of World Bank and IMF policies on Third World countries,” said Pollack, who is also a Hatchet columnist. “We also need to bring the troops home … they’re fighting a needless war.”
Anti-war protesters, in a demonstration organized by International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), are expected to assemble on 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue Saturday at noon and will attempt to surround the White House. Organizers said a parade route has yet to be finalized.
A counter-protest, dubbed “Rally For America,” sponsored by conservatives including radio talk show host and Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy, will commence at noon on the west side of the Capitol between Third and Fourth streets. The event will include speeches by former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleberger and Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R-N.Y.) and performances by country stars Toby Keith, Travis Tritt and Charlie Daniel’s Band.
District officials said they expect peaceful protests and will be heavily policing the parade routes to ensure protesters’ safety.
“Our goal is to make sure people have the (liberty) to express their rights,” said Sgt. Joe Gentile, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department.
“Hopefully there won’t be any arrests,” Gentile said.
In September, more than 600 people were arrested in anti-globalization demonstrations, as protesters and police clashed near the White House.
Gentile said MPD is unsure how many people will be attending this weekend’s protests because organizers have yet to submit parade permits.
University officials said GW would not be affected by the protests but said extra security precautions have been taken to ensure students’ safety.
University Police Chief Dolores Stafford said UPD would double patrols on campus but said no extra security personnel will be placed in residence halls.
“I don’t anticipate the protests being a threat to the University,” said John Petrie, assistant vice president for public safety and emergency management. “We’re not expecting any demonstrations on campus.”
“We’re not doing as many things as we have done in the past,” said Petrie, noting that GW would not be putting protective coverings on the glass facades of the Media and Public Affairs building and the Marvin Center as it did before a similar protest in September.
He said Plexiglas has been put over the windows of Stockton and Lerner halls because those buildings are across the street from an IMF building.
Petrie explained the University’s decision to bar all non-GW students, with the exception of family members, from staying in residence halls from Thursday to Monday.
“We’re concerned people might be housing demonstrators,” Petrie said, adding some students might not want protesters in their halls. “We have to respect the privacy of people in the residence halls … but it’s not like we’re afraid of what demonstrators would do in the residence halls.”
Dan Moss, chairman of the GW College Republicans, said he was going to attend “Rally For America” to show his support for the Bush administration and American troops in Iraq.
“My purpose in going is to support the administration in this war,” Moss said. “There needs to be (a) regime change in Iraq. If Saddam’s not dead, we have to remove him in some fashion.”
An anti-globalization protest will also take place Sunday, with demonstrators planning to march to World Bank headquarters at 18th and H streets.
Demonstrators are also planning to disrupt Monday morning’s commute by blocking city streets.