Low turnout to mark IMF and World Bank protest

This weekend’s G-7, International Monetary Fund and World Bank protests will be sparsely attended and should pose minimal inconveniences to students, University officials said.

“(The demonstrations) are expected to be minimal during the weekend,” said John Petrie, assistant vice president for public safety and emergency management. “They’re real and important to the people demonstrating, but the numbers turnout is not intended to be larger. We don’t have a reason to be concerned.”

Petrie said he estimates the number of demonstrators this weekend to be in the low hundreds, a marked decline from previous years, which saw upwards of 5,000 people protest at the international institution’s biannual meetings.

Neil Watkins, an organizer at Jubilee USA, also said he expects numbers in the low hundreds because his group did not put out a national call for people to come to the city.

“It’s not a huge demonstration. We’ve been focusing our efforts on putting in calls to Congress and the Treasury,” Watkins said. “We’ve been mobilizing nationally to decision makers. We’ll have a spirited rally and picket, but we aren’t trying to recreate mobilizations of years past.”

At about noon Friday, picketers will assemble outside of the Treasury Department’s 1500 Pennsylvania Ave. headquarters, where the G-7 leaders will meet to discuss debt cancellation for impoverished countries.

The G-7 organization is a group of seven wealthy nations – the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – that seek to coordinate their economic policies.

Watkins said he anticipates no security problems and that the picketers will have a “positive” energy.

The United States and the United Kingdom are pushing rival plans to cancel impoverished countries’ debt, according to news reports. The U.S. plan would accomplish this goal by using IMF and World Bank funds while the British plan would require G-7 countries to make payments on the countries’ behalf.

“There’s no time for delay on this questions because people are dying needlessly,” Watkins said. “They can’t get access to AIDS medicine, they can’t reach their full potential because they can’t get an education.”

“The U.S. has taken up the cause … which is a milestone, to say the least,” said Soran Ambrose of 50 Years is Enough, a protest group. “We are trying to encourage the G-7 governments as much as we can to come to an agreement were the debts would be canceled.”

There will also be a vigil in Murrow Park across the street from the World Bank building at 1818 H St. from 2:30 p.m. Friday to 6:00 p.m. Saturday.

“The goal of this is to say, ‘We’re not necessarily here in the thousands, but we are watching you, we’re being vigilant, we want to see what you’re doing and we’ll follow you all night if we have to,'” Watkins said.

The only campus building that will be closed during the weekend is the Jacob Burns Legal Clinic because all of its entrances are within the security perimeter. Beginning early Saturday morning through all of Sunday, pedestrian traffic will be restricted in the area that runs from 17th Street to just west of 20th Street, and just south of I Street to north of F Street. Traffic restrictions will also be in place beginning 10 p.m. Friday night.

“The perimeter is being established by the Secret Service and implemented by Metropolitan Police,” Petrie said. “They have cooperated with us extensively to make sure they minimize impact on GW. We’ve also had great cooperating with MPD and the IMF and World Bank officials.”

Petrie said that to his knowledge, no classes have been cancelled.

This year’s demonstrations come on the heels of an announcement made in August that the World Bank and IMF buildings were targets of terrorist threats. That knowledge prompted Homeland Security officials to raise those financial institutions’ terror alert to orange.

Students should check the GW Campus Advisories Web site for up-to-date information about security procedures this weekend, Petrie said. He also urged students to keep a watchful eye on things that look “out of place.”

He said, “This weekend … (students should be) exceptionally aware of things that seem out of place – people and objects that just don’t look like they belong where they are. They should call attention to it.”

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