D.C. protest draws smaller then expected crowds

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Fewer protestors then expected gathered at a park in Washington, D.C., last weekend for the biannual World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings.

The 27-hour vigil, sponsored by the 50 Years Is Enough Network, was to “honor the victims of 60 years of tragic policies and crippling debt,” the organization said.

The park was filled with large signs and white wooden crosses, each with the name of a country and its debt written on it, were placed on the ground.

Though the security around the World Bank was extremely heightened, this year’s demonstrations were expected to be much smaller. The organizers requested a permit for just 400 people.

In past years, the protests have included more than 5,000 people.

“A lot of people are working on other advocacy projects right now and with the elections, this issue, unfortunately, is under the radar,” said Travis McArthur, an American University freshman from Florida.

Like McArthur, many of the people at the vigil were students.

“A lot of activism comes from students,” said Ash Abili, a student intern at 50 Years who is spending this semester at American University.

“Students tend to be more socially aware,” he said.

A lot of student groups from around the country such as the Environmental Student Organization at Kalamozoo College in Michigan, United Students against Sweatshops, and Students for Dennis Kucinich at the University of Iowa and Binghampton University in New York, have all endorsed the 50 Years’ campaign.

“They listen to students when they talk in masses,” said Abili.

Delegates from 184 nations attended this weekend’s closed World Bank and IMF meetings.

People are listening to the complaints of these organizations because one proposal being considered is a 100 percent debt cancellation for some of the world’s most impoverished countries, said Njoki Njehu, executive director of 50 Years. Njehu was born and raised in Kenya but now resides in Washington, D.C., and has been a part of the organization for eight years.

“The debt keeps growing and economies can’t develop at this rate,” said Abili. “These countries need the aid to survive but they end up spending more in debt payments then they even receive.”

“We will be watching and waiting, hoping that these powerful people will at last take bold steps to fee some of the world’s most impoverished people from debt slavery,” said Marie Dennis, co-chair of the Religious Working Group on the World Bank and IMF.

Along with debt cancellation, the protesters are urging leaders “to open all World Bank and IMF meetings to the media and the public”, to “end all World Bank and IMF policies that hinder people’s access to food, clean water, shelter, healthcare, education, and right to organize”, and to “stop all World Bank support for socially and environmentally destructive projects such as oil, gas mining activities, and all support for project such as dams that include forced relocation of people.”

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