- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 16, 2005

Hundreds of protesters rallied yesterday against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a spirited but small-scale display compared to past years.

A number of groups demanded the financial institutions cancel impoverished nations’ debts and admonished officials for not acting more quickly.

“They’re still arguing about how they should do it,” said Robert Weissman of Mobilization of Global Justice, a co-organizer of the rallies. “What we care about is that they go ahead and get the job done — relieve some of the suffering they have imposed for so many years, so many decades.”

The rally began in front of the World Bank headquarters at 18th and H streets NW, then moved up 18th Street NW to Dupont Circle.

“We are tired of seeing people living without houses in South Africa and in other places, people living without electricity and people living without water,” said Virginia Setshedi with the Anti-Privatization Forum in South Africa.

The gathering of roughly 300 protesters was small compared to previous years.

Thousands converged downtown last year under the watch of nearly as many police officers. More than 25,000 protesters in 2000 filled downtown streets. A year earlier, protesters in Seattle shut down the annual World Trade Organization summit.

In 2002, protesters in the District caused widespread vandalism, and about 400 people were arrested in Pershing Park. The District recently passed a law requiring city police to wear identification badges, limit their use of tear gas and follow new guidelines on investigating protester activities.

Vinci Daro, a protester from Carrboro, N.C., acknowledged the dwindling numbers but said participants are working more closely with bank leaders and have a greater influence upon them.

“The impact [of the marches] is maybe even a little more direct than before,” said Mrs. Daro, 32, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina. “It’s important to show that the movement is still alive. Even though it’s a lot smaller, it’s clear that people are still pretty worked up and passionate.”

Police increased security around the headquarters of the institutions, using dump trucks and other barricades. Once the demonstration reached Dupont Circle, a number of uniformed and plainclothes officers — including some in riot gear — patrolled the area.

Authorities reported no incidents or arrests yesterday or during protests Friday.

Police shut down several Northwest streets yesterday during the march. The streets — Pennsylvania Avenue, G Street, H Street, 18th Street, 19th Street and 20th Street — will be closed again today from 5 a.m. until about 8 p.m.

The banks’ 2005 spring meetings are scheduled to continue today, and protest organizers have planned a rally at the James Senior Apartments in the 1400 block of N Street NW.

“What we are marching for … is to save the soul of the world, to stand up even when folks say to sit down and shut up,” said the Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Northeast.

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