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(en) US, Washington, alt. media, When Police Attack

From Dan Clore <clore@columbia-center.org>
Date Mon, 14 Oct 2002 02:38:05 -0400 (EDT)


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In These Times October 11, 2002
When Police Attack By David Graeber

I spent 15 hours handcuffed on a bus with 44 other people,
all charged with a crime that everyone, including the
police, knew perfectly well we did not commit. At the Police
Academy outside Washington where we were taken on September
27, stood a line of 13 buses, each one full of 45 innocent
people. As sleepy Metro drivers slouched over the wheels,
riot cops checked to make sure everyone?s hands were
securely fastened behind their backs. It didn?t feel
particularly glorious, but in doing so we pretty much shut
down the IMF. 

For months, the Anti-Capitalist Convergence (ACC) had been
planning a "People's Strike" to correspond with the annual
meetings of the IMF and World Bank. This time, rather than a
vain attempt to shut down the meetings themselves, they
would shut down the city, thus bringing home (they hoped)
the intimate connections between the IMF, financial
institutions and government agencies headquartered in the
capital. 

Not only did the ACC spell out beforehand that they intended
an explicitly nonviolent action, but they took the rather
unconventional step of asking people not to form a "Black
Bloc" at all, recommending "business casual" as a way of
blending in with the urban population. They also came up
with a set of demands, from ending the "colonial status" of
the District of Columbia to canceling all international and
personal debt. 

Mobilization for Global Justice, the traditionally more
moderate, NGO-friendly (but also predominantly anarchist)
group threw their action together a bit more belatedly, but
managed to mobilize large numbers for a permitted march that
(it was hoped) would end with an attempt to "quarantine" the
World Bank and IMF by surrounding the buildings with
activists garbed in chemical-safe jumpsuits. 

A week before, Assistant Police Chief Terrence W. Gainer
told Congress that the threat posed by the ACC required
consideration of "pro-active" measures. On the following
Friday, we found out what that meant. As the marches began,
hoards of police, hundreds imported from cities like New
York and Chicago, started systematically surrounding and
arresting everyone. 

The climax came, ironically enough, in Freedom Plaza--which
organizers had designated a "safe space" for those who
couldn?t risk arrest--when hundreds of riot police appeared,
cut off all exits, held hundreds of people for an hour as
they begged to leave, beat anyone who linked arms and
finally hauled off everyone (including medics, National
Lawyer's Guild legal observers and a number of construction
workers and bike messengers who just happened to be around). 

After 650-odd illegal arrests on Friday, it was fairly easy
to terrorize crowds on Saturday; even on a legal march to
the World Bank building, only those couple thousand willing
to risk spending the night in jail actually finished the
route. 

It might have seemed a weekend of frustration and defeat.
But what we really learned was this: While it might be
possible for police to completely stop us from shutting down
a meeting, in order to do so, they effectively shut down the
meeting themselves. 

IMF/World Bank meetings fulfill two major functions. They
are moments of ceremonial display and occasions for
networking. The real action is at the parties, where bankers
and consultants, executives and economists sip cocktails,
exchange phone numbers, and brainstorm new projects and
ideas. But this year, a planned week of meetings had to be
limited to two days; ceremonial events were reduced to
gray-suited figures cowering behind an army of riot police;
most of the parties were canceled; and much of the
communication had to be done via the Internet from sites
outside of the city entirely. At every stage the message was
clear: Business as usual was now a thing of the past. 

In light of all this, the police's open defiance of
legality--on the buses, we were finally charged with
"failure to obey" a police order-makes a bit more sense.
Just a few years ago, we were still hearing the line that
"free trade," privatization and corporate greed were going
to produce a world of such unimaginable wealth that even the
poorest would eventually benefit. Now, the actual message
from the meetings themselves is the fact that the neoliberal
world economy seems to be hovering somewhere between
tailspin and crash. 

Pretense therefore has been brushed aside. Pieties about
free markets leading to a flowering of peace, democracy and
justice have been replaced by the Orwellian prospect of a
world of permanent war with no particular framework of
legality, in which anyone who opposes the neoliberal order
can (like the ACC) be classified as potential terrorists and
subject to pre-emptory attack. 

Perhaps these are desperate measures, the kind one might
expect of those seeing their certainties melt away like the
stock market in the face of an unprecedented (and
overwhelmingly nonviolent) global uprising. The question is
what they will be allowed to get away with in suppressing
it. 

It's all the more appropriate that the IMF actions
culminated on Sunday with an anti-war rally. While much of
the initiative in the "anti-globalization" movement is
centering on places like Argentina and Ecuador, U.S.
activists are realizing that their prime historical
responsibility is to stop their government from moving from
a failed economic model to a global regime based entirely on
its ability to wield terror and pure, naked force.  

-- 
Dan Clore


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