- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Free speech isn't free, the District of Columbia is learning, as bills mount for the overtime pay, equipment expenses and cleanup costs incurred by the city during a week of international-trade protests.
Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, honored by the D.C. Council yesterday for his department's handling of the protests, estimated the police costs for the weeklong mobilization could top $5 million.
And while the widespread praise for the department's work is nice, cash-strapped D.C. officials say the department can't spend accolades.
"They got applause. Now they need the money," said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who last week joined Mayor Anthony A. Williams and other D.C. officials in requesting $5 million in federal funds to reimburse the department.
"All of these are national demonstrations," Mrs. Norton said. "The District is scrambling to find its budget for this year. It cannot subsidize the federal government it should be the other way around."
Meanwhile, police officials are still calculating exactly how much of the department's $15 million annual overtime budget was burned in a single week of demonstrations. More than $1 million was spent on equipment, including pepper spray, rubber bullets and body armor.
Overtime costs are estimated at $3 million to $4 million. Officers manning police barricades surrounding the International Monetary Fund building on 19th Street NW worked shifts as long as 16 hours inside the perimeter.
And the city's tab could go higher.
Peter LaPorte, director of the District's Office of Emergency Management, said that they were working yesterday to document costs for all city agencies including the Metropolitan Police Department, Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, Department of Public Works (DPW), emergency management, the courts and Corporation Counsel.
"What we are doing today is looking at all our numbers from all the agencies that were involved," said Mr. LaPorte, adding that officials are preparing a package for Mrs. Norton to present to Congress.
"We are very optimistic we will be reimbursed, since Seattle was able to recoup their costs," Mr. LaPorte said.
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said he would be willing to support reimbursement for the District.
"I'm prepared to help finance whatever needs there are," Mr. Daschle said. "I don't think that we ought to ask Washington to take it on all by itself." But while the District's handling of a potentially explosive week of demonstrations has won praise from politicians, pundits and D.C. residents, some protesters have cried police brutality.
Yesterday, some jailed protesters said they were denied food and medical care while locked up charges flatly denied by Chief Ramsey.
Jail, he said, is not the Hilton. "You don't call room service and say, 'I'm a vegetarian, I want fish, I want tofu. You get what we got."
That, Chief Ramsey said, amounts to bologna and bread.
The week of protests, designed to hinder the scheduled meeting of IMF and World Bank delegates, climaxed Sunday when an estimated crowd of 10,000 marchers converged downtown. That number fell dramatically Monday, when thousands of police officers behind barriers faced down a much smaller, but much more confrontational, group of protesters.
Tensions flared again yesterday when a minor skirmish between protesters and law enforcement officers erupted outside the D.C. Superior Court, where demonstrators were holding a news conference.
No one was arrested.
Franchezska Zomora, a lawyer with the Midnight Special Law Collective, blamed the disturbance outside the Superior Court building on U.S. marshals who were trying to prevent demonstrators from entering the courtroom where protesters' arraignments were held. She also said that some of the arrested demonstrators have not been released.
Chief Judge Eugene Hamilton said the problem was that the demonstrators wanted to hold a press conference in front of the courthouse doors, which impeded traffic at the entrance. He said they are double-checking to be sure that all of the people arrested have been released.
He said that some of the demonstrators were taken to holding cells at district police stations and they were checking them to be sure no one was lost. More than 1,200 protesters were arrested since April 10 when the demonstrations began.
Some protesters said they'll consider filing lawsuits saying police violated their rights.
The National Lawyers Guild, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Conference of Black Lawyers are collecting information on protesters' complaints.
"There were definitely some significant violations of constitutional rights and people's physical integrity. It's not going to be ignored," said James Drew, chairman of the D.C. chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
The lawsuits will address the "pre-emptive tactics" of the police and other law enforcement agencies, Mr. Drew said, referring to the closure of the protest headquarters on Saturday for fire-code violations and efforts to discourage participation in the demonstrations.
Mr. Drew said individual lawsuits charging police brutality are likely as well.
Elsewhere in the city, things were returning to the day-to-day Washington routine.
DPW crews worked through the night so that streets were cleared of debris like the horse manure dumped on Pennsylvania Avenue on Friday that protesters used to block traffic.
"This was a 24-hour operation," said DPW spokeswoman Linda Grant. "During the height of the demonstrations, we had approximately 100 employees devoted to the demonstrators."
John Drake contributed to this report.

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