A small group of protestors assembled at the Treasury Department and the World Bank building Friday to demand debt relief for third world countries.
The groups Jubilee USA Network and 50 Years is Enough Network tried to bring attention to their cause as the G7 leaders – who represent seven influential nations – held talks this weekend.
The protest had a markedly smaller attendance than past demonstrations against international lending institutions. Last year, the meetings drew nearly 1,000 demonstrators. In September 2002, MPD made 650 arrests in a violent protest that drew about 5,000 people, including 100 GW students. Few students, if any, attended Friday’s demonstrations.
“We didn’t make a call for people to come from all over the nation, so these are mostly D.C. people,” said Marie Clarke, national event coordinator for the Jubilee Network.
About 50 protesters showed up at noon Friday at 14th Street and New York Avenue to listen to speeches, carry signs and chant at the Treasury Department across the street.
“We are at the Treasury today because this institution has the most influence over the (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank,” said Adam Taylor, executive director of Global Justice. “We are calling on the IMF and World Bank to finish what it started and end all debt.”
Taylor, who is also a Baptist minister, was the program’s most animated speaker, yelling emotionally as he accused wealthy nations of acting like “pharaohs.”
Taylor and other speakers said that if the IMF and World Bank relieve the debt load on the poorest nations, they would be able to spend that money on things such as food and AIDS prevention. Taylor led the groups in chants of “debt is unsustainable, freedom is unattainable” and “drop the debt now, medication for everyone.”
“I hope to remind the leaders across the street that they are accountable to the people,” said Jacob Fain of Silver Spring, Md. “The Bush administration has talked about compassionate foreign policy, but they are giving with one hand and taking with the other, that isn’t compassionate.”
Fain, who carried a sign that read “People over Profits” joined the other protesters in marching in a circle chanting “cancel debt now.” Other signs read “Medication for every nation,” “Debt=Death” and “Drop the debt now.”
There were no problems with the protesters, and no arrests were made; the event unfolded as Metropolitan Police had expected, several officers said. Officers, who swarmed Foggy Bottom and manned barricades near the IMF and World Bank buildings, could be heard talking about girlfriends and polishing their patrol cars during the relatively calm day.
Later in the day, protesters set up an information booth and crosses bearing the names of third world countries across the street from the World Bank building at 18th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
“There is a possibility the U.S. and U.K. will suggest debt cancellation,” said Ike Nnedu, who handed out fliers for 50 Years is Enough Network. “We want to let the ‘leaders of the free world’ know that the people want this.”
MPD closed streets around the IMF and World Bank buildings to traffic, and there were numerous police officers on the east side of campus.