- The Washington Times - Friday, April 15, 2005

Protestors yesterday rallied near the U.S. Treasury, beginning a weekend of demonstrations in the District calling for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to cancel debts to Third World countries.

“The politics of delay have to end right now, right here, and the Treasury Department has power,” said Adam Taylor of Sojourners and Jubilee USA Network, a co-organizer of the protests.

“We know that debt cancellation is not a magic bullet, but it is a prerequisite for truly allowing countries to lift themselves out of the quicksands of poverty and a prerequisite for real justice to be realized.”

The gathering of about 100 protesters near the Treasury, at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, was small compared to previous years.

Police expect larger crowds for today’s protest and march — from the banks’ headquarters downtown to Dupont Circle. But they do not anticipate the large numbers that arrived in 2002, which resulted in widespread vandalism and the arrest of about 400 in Pershing Park.

As a result, the District passed a law requiring city police to wear identification badges, limit their use of tear gas and follow new guidelines on investigating protester activities.

Jonah Gokova, with the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, said Third World debt amounts to “money stolen from the poor that is now in the hands of rich people.”

The protests coincide with the annual spring meetings for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and with meetings for the Group of Seven — the top finance officials from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

“We are not here calling for peanuts, we are calling for the whole peanut farm,” said Mvuselelo Ngcoya, of Africa Action, another co-organizer of the protests. “Not tomorrow, but today.”

The protestors also staged a bike rally yesterday from downtown to Dupont Circle that caused only minor traffic disruptions. No arrests were reported.

D.C. police plan to close several streets downtown around the banks, including Pennsylvania Avenue and G Street NW, from 18th to 20th streets; and 19th Street NW, from G Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. Police also have placed barricades around the banking headquarters.

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