- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2000

A handful of World Bank protesters charged police with a length of wire fence and pelted officers with rocks and bottles two blocks from the White House during scattered skirmishes that did nothing to interrupt the scheduled meeting of International Monetary Fund delegates yesterday.

Any chance the protesters had to disrupt World Bank discussions was lost well before dawn, police said. Delegates were driven from their hotels to the IMF building on 19th street at 5 a.m., an hour or so before demonstrators arrived.

About 20 protesters were arrested yesterday one for carrying Molotov cocktails in his knapsack.

As of last night, about 665 protesters had been arrested since Thursday. Of those, 637 were arrested Saturday for parading without a license, attempting to break through a police line, littering and trespassing.

Between 200 and 300 remained in custody last night, said Katy Komisaruk, an attorney for the protesters. On their behalf, Ms. Komisaruk said, lawyers will file a lawsuit against the Washington, D.C. Police Department charging violation of constitutional rights including freedom of assembly and denial of legal counsel.

Police yesterday refused to retreat. Protesters who knocked over barricades and attacked officers were met with nightsticks, pepper spray and smoke bombs. Officers beat back efforts to break through a police cordon around the IMF with batons and hard shoves.

Authorities say they are determined to avoid the violence that erupted in Seattle during December's protests against the World Trade Organization, when more than 580 people were arrested and $10 million in damage was done.

When demonstrators broke the rear window of a George Washington University police car, and sprayed it with graffiti, police held themselves in check and called a wrecker to tow the car away.

Groups opposing the World Bank and the IMF represent a variety of causes: environmentalists, labor unions, and those wanting the billion-dollar debts of poor nations removed from the books.

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said his combined force of federal, city, Virginia and Maryland officers managed to keep 10,000 demonstrators under control without seriously injuring anyone. Two police officers, laden with full packs of riot gear, were treated for heat exhaustion.

The chief says 116 "sleeping dragons" lengths of pipe filled with hardened tar and placed snakelike across roads to disrupt traffic and enough pipe to make 300 more dragons were seized Saturday, along with gas masks and homemade pepper spray.

As expected, protesters sat at intersections forming human chains and danced to the beat of drums and chants.

Most of those arrested were collared at about 8 a.m. when they tried breaking through a police line at 15th Street and New York Avenue NW. Some of them were doused with pepper spray or inhaled smoke-bomb fumes.

Later, a more serious clash broke out at Franklin Park when about 50 masked members of the "black bloc," or the anarchist Revolutionary Anti-Capitalist Bloc, charged police with a chain-link fence they tore from a construction site.

Officers charged back and chased them through the park, knocking them over with nightsticks. One officer hit protesters and reporters with pepper spray, and another officer fired two tear-gas grenades into a crowd of demonstrators.

The smoke overwhelmed several reporters, who had trouble breathing. They had their tearing eyes flushed with water by medics in the protest group.

Demonstrators donned gas masks and threw glass bottles, rocks, trash bins and newspaper boxes at officers.

After a tense standoff for several minutes, three women in red outfits held the two-fingered peace sign aloft and calmed the crowd, which dispersed.

A 30-minute confrontation at noon between protesters and police at 19th and H streets NW was calmed when Chief Ramsey, who appeared without a hat or helmet, began talking to the demonstrators on the other side of the barricade.

"Peace, no violence," Chief Ramsey repeated as he walked the line of protesters and shook hands with one young man.

"I found they were basically pretty good kids. I was afraid it was going to get out of hand," the chief said.

Yesterday's skirmishes began around 6 a.m. when chanting protesters plopped down at several intersections and linked arms. Police in riot gear stood impassively behind metal barricades. The crowds cheered wildly as helicopters buzzed overhead and when police cars backed away.

By early afternoon, officers were the only ones standing at the metal barricades and many activists were lying on grassy areas outside the perimeter.

"I'm tired," admitted medic Ingrid Chapman, 20, of Seattle. "I feel really good though. Today was a great day."

While many people marched peacefully and employed civil disobedience, black-clad anarchists who were blamed for the vandalism in Seattle protests last year threw trash cans and newspaper bins in the street, moved cars and spray-painted graffiti on building walls.

Joshua Webster, a member of the "black bloc," said the graffiti and vandalism against newspaper boxes was the work of individuals, not the group as a whole.

Mr. Webster, 19, of Oakland, Calif., said the newspaper bins were used as barricades "to protect our First Amendment rights to demonstrate."

As protesters chanted in front of a line of officers on 18th Street NW at about noon, a man who identified himself only as "Pinatta" had his left arm locked in a hardened plastic pipe with his friend "at-large," and his right arm locked to a giant pink pig.

He was protesting the World Bank and IMF because "they enslave Third World countries and restrict access to medicine."

Gene Stilp of No Nukes Pennsylvania wore a tuxedo as he stood atop a wooden Trojan horse beaming at young girls leading cheers at 17th and I streets NW.

"It's a formal demonstration, right?" Mr. Stilp, 49, said. "I don't really feel marvelous, but I want to look marvelous."

Local college students were divided over the protest.

A George Washington University fraternity house at 21st and G streets hung signs from their windows with slogans like "American capitalists and damn proud of it."

Thousands gathered at the Ellipse for a permitted rally and listened to music and speakers.

"Welcome to the battle of Seattle, part two," said Michael Moore, the documentary filmmaker who became famous for hounding Roger Smith, then CEO of General Motors, with his film crew during the making of "Roger and Me."

At tables around the Ellipse, political organizations sought recruits among the anti-IMF activists. The Workers World Party, the Labor Party, and the League for the Revolutionary Party distributed newspapers and pamphlets.

Beneath a colorful banner reading, "People & Nature Before Profits, Young Communist League USA," the Communist Party USA gave away copies of its newspaper, the People's Weekly World.

Commerce was not unknown at the Ellipse, however. The Socialist Party USA sold red T-shirts declaring, "Abolish the World Bank! End the IMF! Dissolve the WTO!"

Vendors hawked copies of the Socialist Worker newspaper for 50 cents. Yellow "Mumia Must Live" buttons went for $1 each. The buck bought a piece of the protest of the scheduled execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer.

Private vans began taking protesters from the area at about 5:30 p.m., leaving small gatherings of protesters still on the streets.

• Robert Stacy McCain contributed to this report.

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