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(en) US, Washington, Media: 20,000 Activists Expected in D.C.

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 24 Sep 2002 01:03:05 -0400 (EDT)


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D.C. Commuters Warned Of Major Tie-Ups Friday
D.C. Emergency Management Director Peter G. LaPorte has some blunt advice for 
Washington-bound commuters later this week, when demonstrators protesting 
policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have vowed to 
snarl traffic.

"Take Metro, take Metro, take Metro," LaPorte said yesterday, echoing a 
refrain heard from police and city officials preparing for major street 
demonstrations Friday and Saturday. "And if you're bent on driving, get up 
early, leave early and expect that there could be some significant traffic 
delays."

Protesters are organizing a series of demonstrations against the World Bank 
and IMF, which are holding annual meetings at the institutions' Foggy Bottom 
headquarters this weekend. Authorities estimate that 20,000 protesters will 
take to the streets.

Several protests are planned, some more disruptive than others. Authorities 
expect the most trouble Friday, when the Anti-Capitalist Convergence is 
urging a "People's Strike," asking supporters to stay home from work or 
school - and encouraging activists to block downtown intersections, slow 
traffic on the Capital Beltway and hold protests at specific government and 
corporate offices.

Law enforcement and city officials have promised that Washington will be open 
for business Friday, strike or no strike. "It's our intent to balance the 
citizens having open access versus protesters' rights to assemble and be 
heard," LaPorte said.

Police and city leaders are urging commuters to use public transportation if 
they come downtown. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey is advising drivers to 
stay off D.C. streets entirely that day or expect to sit in traffic jams.

Police advise businesses around the IMF and World Bank buildings to 
reschedule deliveries and remove garbage cans. They also say that 
construction sites should be secured and that people working near the IMF and 
World Bank should carry business-issued identification.

State police in Virginia have not issued any specific warnings to people 
using the Beltway on Friday, saying commuters are used to slow traffic in the 
morning. State police in Maryland and Virginia will have extra troopers on 
duty. Metro plans regular service but expects some Metrobus routes to be 
detoured because of street closings. Metro has no plans to close stations; 
the D.C. school system has no plans to make schedule changes.

The purpose of Friday's demonstration is to protest capitalism, which 
Anti-Capitalist Convergence organizers say drives the U.S. government and its 
corporate partners to exploit people and natural resources at home and 
abroad. Much of the strike plan is still being finalized.

Organizers said they have commitments from dozens of motorists, including 
some cabdrivers and truckers, to slow traffic by driving at or below the 
speed limit on the Beltway. The group is also organizing a 7 a.m. 
anti-corporate greed march at Franklin Square, 14th and K streets NW, for 
which it has no permit. Sit-in protests at corporate and government offices 
may be held along the march route, which the group has not disclosed.

"The targets will be corporations that we feel have been especially guilty of 
robbing their workers of their retirement funds and laying off workers and 
putting profits ahead of people's needs," said one organizer who spoke on 
condition that his name not be used.

Also Friday, again without a permit, protesters plan to hop on bicycles at 
Union Station for a 7:30 a.m. "Bike Strike" ride to protest oil companies and 
promote alternative forms of transportation. At 9 a.m. at Freedom Plaza, a 
protest and street theater against a rush to war in Iraq will be held.

The group is also calling for road blockages at traffic circles and 
intersections. Protest plans issued this month called for actions at Metro 
stations, but organizers say community activists have voiced concerns that 
this would affect working-class people heading to their jobs.

"We've heard rumors that some people might try to disrupt service, but it's 
really hard to say," said Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann. Passengers should 
allow extra time for travel Friday and, if possible, try to avoid the peak 
periods of 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m., he said.

Ramsey said that despite the rumors, Metro remains the best option for many 
commuters. Protesters "could hit anything," he said. "That's part of the 
problem."

Activists stress that the protest is meant to disrupt daily activities, not 
to injure anyone. "We're going to do our best to ensure that the offices 
themselves, and the higher-ups in the offices, are the ones that get 
inconvenienced and not others," the organizer said.

The group's plans have caused law enforcement officials to explore preemptive 
legal action to stop the most radical elements of Friday's protests, a move 
organizers denounce as unconstitutional.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer said yesterday that he and 
Ramsey have been encouraged in recent days because the Anti-Capitalist 
Convergence and other protest groups say they are ignoring calls for a 
"Scavenger Hunt" and other violent action. The Scavenger Hunt is an idea 
posted on an anarchist Web site - offering points for occupying offices on K 
Street NW, smashing a McDonald's restaurant window or puncturing a police 
car's tire.

"We're delighted that the organizers are talking about [how] this is going to 
be peaceful [and] . . . disavowing the antics suggested," Gainer said.

Staff writers Lyndsey Layton and Justin Blum contributed to this report.


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