- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 3, 2002

NEW YORK More than 2,000 protesters with dozens of causes converged outside the Waldorf-Astoria yesterday in a joyful and nearly trouble-free demonstration against the World Economic Forum.
Waves of demonstrators marched and danced through Midtown Manhattan, carrying placards protesting everything from war to capitalism to child labor to pollution.
The demonstrators were surrounded and at times outnumbered by lines of uniformed police, many of them in full riot gear with Kevlar vests.
The demonstrators were drawn out on this bright, chilly day by the World Economic Forum, a gathering of some 2,700 chief executives, world leaders, religious figures and the occasional celebrity. It is the kind of gathering where Microsoft founder Bill Gates and U2's lead singer Bono can share a podium to discuss increased spending for global health programs.
Protesters and police engaged in a couple of brief shoving matches, but there was none of the serious violence that has marred protests at recent gatherings of international leaders in other cities.
Nearly all the demonstrators had left the hotel area a few hours after sundown. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said 36 persons were arrested during the day.
Officers detained 27 protesters outside the Plaza hotel near Central Park for unlawful assembly or disorderly conduct, Commissioner Kelly said. He said "specific information" had been received that the demonstrators, all carrying either wooden shields or masks, planned to attack police.
Nine others were arrested at three different locations, including four after a scuffle with officers on Lexington Avenue, Commissioner Kelly said. Three police officers suffered minor injuries during the day, he said.
Discussions at the forum were focused on U.S. foreign policy, its potential role in breeding terrorism and the downside of globalization all key issues for the protest groups.
At a morning session on the world's economy, Horst Kohler, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, bluntly criticized the United States for protecting its agricultural and textile industries from cheap foreign competition through tariffs and government subsidies.
Such policies keep poor countries from fully participating in the global economy, he said.
"We need to focus on giving developing countries better access, and this includes the phasing out of these subsidies, which are absolutely distorting and devastating sectors in the poor world," Mr. Kohler said to loud applause from the gallery.
However, most of the forum's activities were scaled back yesterday to make room for a previously scheduled wedding in the Waldorf's gilded ballroom. The forum's black-tie ball was held, instead, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. That is exactly the kind of synergy many of yesterday's demonstrators say they were protesting.
"I see this as a meeting of the ruling class, those united for profit and not for people," said Geoff Bruen, an AmeriCorps worker from Newark, N.J., who bristled at the heavy police presence yesterday.
"The fact that they've got all these barricades up shows that this is not a democracy but a police state," he said. "The ruling class controls the police. I'm not surprised."
Many of the marchers used language straight off their signs in explaining what, exactly, they were there to protest. "They should be putting people before profits," said environmentalist Shira Zamir, who is studying politics at New York University.
Chris Johnson, a teacher at Washington Irving High School in Lower Manhattan, took his senior government class to participate in the demonstration. "They really dug it," said Mr. Johnson, who was wearing a foam Statue of Liberty crown and a leather jacket. "They borrowed signs, they marched."
Meanwhile, a group of cyber-activists claimed responsibility for crashing the forum's Web site Friday, but the site was up and running again yesterday.
After a brief rally in Central Park, the demonstrators many waving fanciful masks, insects, flowers and other nature symbols made their way down Fifth Avenue and across 60th Street, passing some of the most expensive stores in the city.
The salesman and two customers in Baccarat, the exclusive glass shop, watched the parade in unabashed delight through the store's broad windows. On display: a set of etched highball glasses, $265 for the pair.
Managers of most chain retailers, including a Gap clothing store, however, closed their doors for the duration of the march.
Since the forum opened on Thursday, police have been guarding McDonald's, Starbucks and Gap clothing stores throughout the city after the retailers were targeted for vandalism in previous demonstrations. But the mood yesterday was as bright as the weather.
"I came here to sightsee, and this is a real sight to see," said Maria Gericanos, who stepped out of Bloomingdale's and found herself in the middle of the demonstration.
Gripping her young daughter in one hand and four shopping bags in the other, the tourist from Madrid said she was glad to see the protesters behaving so well.
Moments later, Alexis Danzig marched past, her son, Tariq, 2, cradled in her arms. "I'm here today because my son is going to grow up in a world where he has more resources than other people have. And that isn't fair, and it isn't right," she said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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