- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2000

Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police officials say they will be ready for Seattle-style protests in mid-April when international financial groups meet here, as protest organizers continue to prepare for nonviolent demonstrations.

"[Protesters] can exercise their First Amendment rights," Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer told The Washington Times yesterday. But for those who become violent, "the arrests will be quick, swift and certain."

"We will not put up with civil disobedience that leads to breaking windows, burning cars or pelting people with rocks. We won't be caught sleeping," he said.

The Metropolitan Police Department is re-equipping and training 1,400 officers for crowd control, stocking up on less-than-lethal weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets, and setting up locations to send suspects if officers conduct mass arrests, he said.

The department is aiming to thwart any attempt to shut down the city when the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) hold high-level meetings here in April, the chief said.

Chief Gainer added that the department will likely increase its patrols and the number of officers on duty, as it did for the New Year's Eve celebration and the 50th anniversary gala for NATO last year.

Meanwhile, the Alliance for Global Justice, a Third World advocacy group, has been organizing scores of activists for several weeks to halt the meetings of the World Bank and IMF, which they say are used by industrialized nations to keep developing ones in a state of dependence.

Organizers said they aim to avoid the violence that marred similar meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in December, when rioting by thousands of protesters ended with nearly 600 arrests and more than $10 million in property damage and lost business.

"We are planning a full week of activities and protests," said alliance director Njoki Njehu, 34. "We expect thousands of people to take to the streets [in a demonstration of] mass, nonviolent direct action."

Ms. Njehu said organizers will hold seminars on nonviolent protest and have distributed handbills noting the techniques for peaceful protests inspired by Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi.

Alliance member Soren Ambrose said organizers expect at least 5,000 demonstrators.

Chief Gainer said police officials want to meet with protest organizers to lay down the ground rules and set up designated protest areas and march routes.

The chief added that the D.C. National Guard will assist the department, but that he doesn't plan for soldiers to help with crowd control. "Putting Guardsmen on the street is a last resort," he said.

"We need to communicate this is an open and safe city," the chief said. "We don't want to use the military option."

Several federal agencies, including the FBI, U.S. Park Police, U.S. Capitol Police, the Secret Service and U.S. Marshals Service, will lend support to the city's police department and Emergency Management Agency.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will assist city police with about 65 agents who specialize in bomb detection and detonation, an ATF official said.

FBI officials do not believe domestic terrorism is a concern at this point, said spokesman Sean Burke.

Federal buildings will not be closed, said Viki Reath,, spokeswoman for the General Services Administration. She would not comment on whether the Federal Protective Service, which guards federal buildings, will increase its manpower.

In Seattle, police clashed with protesters for three days, firing tear gas and charging crowds with batons to clear downtown streets during WTO meetings in December. Some residents criticized the police response as excessive.

Mayor Paul Schell declared a civic emergency and ordered a "no-protest" zone encompassing 50 city blocks. Nearly 600 demonstrators were arrested.

Violent protesters smashed windows, defaced buildings and set fires that cost Seattle business owners more than $10 million in property damage and lost revenue.

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