- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

NEW YORK Anti-globalization protesters, who have shied from the spotlight in the months after September 11, plan to return in force with a massive display of resistance at a meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) here in two weeks.

At a weekend organization meeting in New York, dozens of self-proclaimed anarchists, radicals and anti-globalization activists agreed that they would not publicly condemn the use of violence by fellow protesters.

Many of those speaking at the three-hour meeting said they did not define as violence the destruction of corporate property, nor measures taken in self-defense.

"The police and the corporate media will try to provoke violence, and I think we will be in an inevitably volatile situation," said one man in his early 20s, a decorative stripe of safety pins trailing down one sleeve.

No one at the meeting of the anti-WEF coalition, called "Another World Is Possible," advocated the use of violence during Sunday night's meeting. But they seemed comfortable with the idea that their protests might turn ugly.

One organizer said he had arranged for 30 "street medics" volunteers trained in emergency first aid for tear gas, broken bones and other injuries most frequently sustained in demonstrations to be available during the group's march Feb. 2.

The anti-WEF organization is fairly decentralized, but some facilitators say they expect tens of thousands of demonstrators, including student groups, labor unions, church groups and activists supporting animal, environmental and human rights.

Protesters have disrupted nearly every major international economic gathering since the "Battle of Seattle" shut down the World Trade Organization meeting in December 1999. Demonstrations in Washington; Salzburg, Austria; Genoa, Italy; and other cities have grown increasingly violent.

The 31-year-old World Economic Forum, traditionally staged in Davos, Switzerland, will leave its mountaintop for the first time this year.

WEF conferences have been plagued by protests for the past two years, causing some Swiss politicians and media outlets to question whether it should continue to be held in a small alpine village.

The annual meeting, scheduled for Jan. 31 to Feb. 4 at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City, will draw some 2,500 corporate, political, religious and academic leaders and media stars or "fat cats," as the anti-globalization camp calls them.

Those attending the WEF will participate in 300 lectures and seminars, as well as countless meals, receptions and private meetings. It is, as one participant says, an invaluable networking opportunity for people who mostly already know each other.

For anti-globalization forces, the WEF is also an irresistible symbol of entitlement and power among politicians, corporations, academics and mainstream media entities they blame for recessions, unemployment, environmental abuse and other wrongs.

"They have come to make their plans to increase mass layoffs, to slash education and health services, to reduce wages and working conditions and to assault the civil rights of all who dare to oppose them," one anti-WEF Web site said.

During last year's WEF forum in Davos, police repelled protesters with water cannons and barbed wire, eventually arresting scores of demonstrators throughout the country.

After the September 11 attacks, WEF organizers moved their meeting to Manhattan saying they wanted to show support for the beleaguered city.

The move will cost considerably more than the roughly $13 million spent on a typical Davos event, WEF Communications Director Charles McLean said.

"If it's true that these people are not willing to condemn violence, after all this city has been through, I think they should be ashamed of themselves," he said on Monday. "I don't think New Yorkers will be very receptive to people who come here with violent intentions."

Detective Walter Burnes, a spokesman for the New York Police Department, said it was too soon to discuss arrangements for the WEF meeting. However, he said repeatedly that the department "is the best trained and most experienced in handling demonstrations."

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