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Focus of D.C. Protests Turned to Peace Effort

The world's finance ministers and central bankers may
have canceled plans to gather in Washington this
weekend, but scores of protesters and activists have
not. Organizers campaigning against the annual
meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary
Fund are shifting their focus to the growing antiwar
movement.
Focus of D.C. Protests Turned to Peace Effort

By Manny Fernandez and Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, September 24, 2001; Page B03

The world's finance ministers and central bankers may
have canceled plans to gather in Washington this
weekend, but scores of protesters and activists have
not. Organizers campaigning against the annual
meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary
Fund are shifting their focus to the growing antiwar
movement.

Demonstrators spent months preparing for the meetings,
which were set for Saturday and Sunday, until the
World Bank and IMF canceled the sessions last week in
light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Police had
estimated that as many as 100,000 protesters would
fill the capital for a raucous week of marches calling
for reforms.

With the meetings postponed and public attention
focused on the devastation at the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon, many in the movement feared a loss
of momentum. But some activists have already tweaked
their message from anti-IMF to antiwar and are
coordinating marches and rallies in the city this
weekend.

"We've refocused our demonstration to address the
immediate dangers posed by racism and the grave threat
of a new war," said Richard Becker, a coordinator with
the International Action Center, which changed the
theme of its previously planned "Surround the White
House" rally. "It's extremely important now, for those
who are opposed to this plunge into the new
militarization of society . . . to take a stand now."

Federal and local authorities had taken extraordinary
precautions to ready Washington for the
demonstrations, developing a $29 million security plan
that included fencing off a large swath of downtown.
The canceled meetings have not meant a full reprieve
for D.C. police, however, who expect about 4,000
protesters for weekend antiwar events, Chief Charles
H. Ramsey said.

All D.C. officers will be on duty Saturday and Sunday
and plan to work with the uniformed division of the
Secret Service and U.S. Park Police to handle the
crowd. Authorities have abandoned plans for the
two-mile fence and will instead rely on the Civil
Disturbance Unit and waist-high barricades used in IMF
and World Bank protests last year, Ramsey said.

A slight change of tactics may be in order, as police
expect counter-demonstrators to show up to voice
support for the Bush administration's response to the
crisis. "We're also going to have to protect the
demonstrators from one another," Ramsey said.

Protesters characterize the police preparations as an
overreaction, saying they expect a less militant tone.
Close to two dozen groups, from immigrant-rights
supporters to environmentalists to anarchists, planned
to protest the meetings. This weekend's events will
feature only a fraction of those groups, as several --
including the AFL-CIO labor federation -- have pulled
out.

The International Action Center initially planned a
march from the White House to the IMF and World Bank
headquarters to demand an end to harmful economic
policies. But the group switched targets and tactics
and will now speak out against the U.S. war effort and
recent violence against Arab Americans, Becker said.

Surrounding the White House is also no longer part of
the plan. Participants will gather at Lafayette Square
at noon Saturday and march to the Capitol. The center,
a national activist group based in New York, expects
10,000 to take part.

Park Police said a permit allowing the protest could
be voided if security concerns warrant. "If a decision
comes down [to void the permit], it will come down
from the Secret Service," said Lt. Keith Horton, of
the Park Police. "The Secret Service will make the
final determination if it's a security concern."

Other rallies will be held in Los Angeles and San
Francisco.

Another Saturday march is being organized by the
Anti-Capitalist Convergence, a D.C.-based network of
anarchists and anti-capitalists. The group seeks to
draw attention to the ties between the Sept. 11
attacks and U.S. military and foreign policy, a member
of the group said. "Until we understand the violence
of our economic, military and foreign policies, we
will continue to foster the conditions that make this
kind of terrorism possible," a statement from the
group reads.

The group is no longer calling for militant blocs, a
tactic used by some protesters featuring black-clad
and masked members. Thousands are expected to attend
week-long events, though details of the downtown march
are still being worked out.

An interfaith service at St. Aloysius Church in
Northwest Washington on Saturday and a peace gathering
organized by the Washington Peace Center and the D.C.
office of the American Friends Service Committee on
Sunday are also planned. "We need to stop and take
time to grieve and look for some of the root causes of
violence . . . that happens around the planet," said
Bette Hoover, local director for the committee, the
social service branch of the Quakers.

The Mobilization for Global Justice, one of the main
coalitions organizing against the World Bank and IMF,
canceled its call for street protests out of respect
for attack victims and their families. But global
economy teach-ins will go forward, and individual
members plan to join antiwar events.

"I think the fight for global justice is not just
economic, but it also deals with issues of peace and
war," D.C. organizer Adam Eidinger said. "I think
there's a sense of breaking through the media blackout
of voices that want restraint and justice instead of
revenge."

Staff writer Jennifer Lenhart contributed to this
report.

2001 The Washington Post Company


=====
International Action Center
*new office until Oct. 15*
1247 E St. SE (entrance on 13th St.)
Washington DC 20003
Phone: 202-543-2777; Fax: 202-543-6847
Email:  iacenterdc@yahoo.com
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