- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Metropolitan Police yesterday stepped up security measures as activists stepped up protests against international financial agencies meeting here next week.

Police officers took positions on bridges spanning the Potomac River and at key city buildings, including city hall, where officers carefully checked identification cards.

Meanwhile, about 50 demonstrators yesterday morning marched from their warehouse headquarters on Florida Avenue NW to join 100 others in a protest at the Colombian Embassy.

They accused Colombian President Andres Pastrana, who arrived in Washington this week, of using U.S. aid to augment his army.

Moreover, the activists said U.S. corporations would profit from Colombian oil-drilling rights at the expense of the environment.

"We want our dollars to support the peace process in Colombia," said Stephen Kretzmann of Amazon Watch, one of several groups protesting this week as a part of the Mobilization for Global Justice.

The protesters' so-called "Days of Action" demonstrations will continue this week and culminate Sunday and Monday, when as many as 10,000 activists will use "large-scale, nonviolent direct action" in an attempt to shut down scheduled meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Streets around the World Bank and the IMF 19th Street NW between G Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, and H Street NW between 18th and 20th streets remained closed yesterday. Police on Tuesday closed the streets until further notice.

Police plan to expand the street closings to 19th and I streets NW and to H and 17th streets NW.

Only pedestrians and authorized vehicles will be allowed in the area. No pedestrians will be allowed in front of the World Bank or IMF buildings. Police yesterday checked the identifications of pedestrians at the buildings.

D.C. police made no arrests yesterday, said Metropolitan Police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile.

Yesterday's protests outside the Colombian Embassy focused on a bill before the Senate that would give more than $1 billion in aid to the South American nation.

Mr. Kretzmann said the aid package would benefit only the Colombian military and Occidental Petroleum, a U.S. corporation in a battle for oil-drilling rights against the U'wa indigenous tribe.

"The general theme is human rights, not corporate wrongs," Mr. Kretzmann said, as protesters prepared their march down Florida and Connecticut avenues and 20th and U streets taking up one lane of traffic, with two-thirds of the District's police cruisers in tow.

Police wearing helmets stood on one side of 20th Street NW near the IMF as a lone officer videotaped the protest. Demonstrators stood across the street holding signs and with bandannas across their faces.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Mr. Pastrana said yesterday the aid package would be used to fight paramilitary death squads as well as communist guerrillas.

The administration's new military aid package, which the House has passed but is stalled in the Senate, will provide help to anti-drug police and army units that protect police from the heavily armed Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said Mrs. Albright.

About 100 activists with Jubilee 2000/USA and other groups peacefully protested in front of the World Bank yesterday afternoon with white crosses.

"We were kneeling and sitting here, and then the metal rails went up," said John Mateyko, regional coordinator for Witness For Peace. "We took that as their answer to our request to talk to the president of the bank."

A rally is planned at midday today at the U.S. Capitol to stop the expansion of the World Trade Organization and to lobby Congress to "Keep China on Probation."

U.S. Capitol Police are expecting about 15,000 to gather at the West Front of the Capitol, which could hinder noon traffic around Capitol Hill.

Several thousand Teamsters with semis will rally against the WTO on the north side of the Capitol today at 11 a.m. At noon, the AFL-CIO will rally to oppose normal trade relations with China on the west side of the Capitol.

Groups opposing the World Bank and IMF represent a variety of causes: the environment, labor, human rights, peace, anti-global capitalism and debt-reduction for poor nations.

Demonstration organizers have met with police officials and assured them their activities will be peaceful, but police are concerned that "fringe groups" may cause disruptions.

Protest targets in Washington include the World Bank and IMF buildings, the White House, Capitol Hill, the State Department and the Treasury Department.

Activists said they would use tactics like human barricades and sit-ins to prevent delegates from reaching the meetings, much like the protests last year in Seattle during WTO meetings. Those protests erupted into violence; more than 580 people were arrested and more than $10 million worth of property was destroyed.

D.C. police officials have said they wouldn't be overwhelmed like Seattle police, who imposed a curfew and broke up protests with clubs, rubber bullets and tear gas. Hundreds of Seattle police, 200 National Guard troops and 600 state troopers were needed to restore order after rioting erupted.

The protests provide a test for local police officials, who said they have learned the lessons of the Seattle riots. Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper resigned in December, taking full responsibility for the violence that disrupted the WTO meeting.

Extra security was in place yesterday at One Judiciary Square, the District's city hall at Third Street and Indiana Avenue NW, with extra police protection and increased security checks of everyone entering the building. Everyone was required to show identification cards before being allowed into the building.

"They were checking everyone's ID and belongings. There were about 30 police cars on Third Street, but there was not a protester in sight," said a D.C. Council staffer. "I don't know if there was a threat or not. Maybe they were afraid someone would throw some goat blood or something."

A police source said they had a rumor the IMF demonstrators were going to protest, but no one showed up.

"Why would they go to the mayor's office? He has nothing to with that," the police source said.

• Ben Barber, Jim Keary and John Drake contributed to this report.

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