By Mary Beth Sheridan, republished from CommonDreams.org, October 21, 2007
White-helmeted D.C. police briefly scuffled with protesters yesterday during a demonstration outside the World Bank, but no one was seriously injured or arrested, officials and protesters said.
The confrontation came after violence erupted Friday during a protest in Georgetown. Objects were thrown at store windows, newspaper boxes were overturned and a police officer was pushed from a scooter, authorities said. Yesterday was quieter.
About 500 demonstrators marched from Franklin Square, near the White House, to World Bank headquarters, at 18th and H streets NW. The protesters, a mix of students, community activists and black-clad anarchists, denounced the policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which are holding meetings this weekend.
The event was peaceful except for a tense moment in Edward R. Murrow Park, across from the bank, where the march ended. As delegates arrived for the meetings mid-afternoon, several anarchists charged the police line, according to officials and two demonstrators. Baton-wielding police raced in, shoving protesters and snatching their signs. A crowd massed, shouting “Our streets! Our streets!”
“They charged the police line,” said D.C. Assistant Police Chief Patrick Burke, head of the homeland security bureau. “Police lines cannot be broken.”
A protester who identified himself as Bob Exe, 20, said police struck him on the shoulder and nose with batons. The District resident, who had stuck a tissue into his bloodied nose, said no one charged the line but there “might have been some pushing.” He acknowledged that the demonstrators had been trying to block delegates from reaching the World Bank.
Yesterday’s event was a faint echo of the anti-globalization protests that brought huge crowds to the city in past years. In 2000, about 20,000 demonstrators converged on Washington, disrupting parts of downtown and clashing with police.
At protests two years later, D.C. police came under strong criticism for arresting hundreds of peaceful demonstrators without warning. The District has since paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal settlements and adopted new protocols to prevent abuse of police power.
Two protesters were arrested Friday night and charged with assaulting police officers.
Hundreds of D.C. police were on the streets for yesterday’s protests, including SWAT teams. Some protesters yelled insults at police, but others said they had decided not to use violence.
“We’ve got immigrants and others we don’t want to put in danger,” said Luke Kuhn, 42, a self-described anarchist from Montgomery County.
Other protesters warily eyed the anarchists, who wore bandannas over their faces and waved black flags.
“This is not the usual environment to see us in, surrounded by people in balaclavas,” said Ben Margolis, 27, a British demonstrator with the group Global Call to Action Against Poverty. “We’re here to demonstrate the passion of civil society. We call on the Bank and Fund to become more transparent and promote good governance and end the negative conditions they put on their loans.”
This weekend’s demonstrations were organized by the loose-knit October Coalition and drew people critical not only of the international institutions but also of gentrification, U.S. immigration policies, D.C. school vouchers and consumption of meat.
An organizer, Sameer Dossani, acknowledged that the crowd was small compared with past years. He attributed the turnout to the scheduling of a variety of antiwar and other demonstrations this month in the District and other cities.
“It’s good a lot of things are happening. But we do take away from one another a little bit,” he said.