- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2002

NEW YORK Police said yesterday they expect demonstrations at this week's World Economic Forum will be mostly peaceful, but they plan to strictly enforce an 1845 state law barring groups of demonstrators from wearing masks.
Chief of Patrol Joseph Esposito said the law applies to groups of three or more.
"Three or more with masks and they're marching, they're under arrest," he said.
Thousands of demonstrators are expected on the streets of New York for the four-day gathering of world political and business leaders that starts Thursday.
At a press conference at the Intercontinental Hotel here, World Economic Forum President and founder Klaus Schwab tried to downplay security concerns.
"We know we are in good hands," he said. "We've seen authorities take necessary measures, and we hope we can work together with those who want to be on the streets" in protest.
The New York Police Department has made it clear that it will close streets around the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and treat disturbances with "zero tolerance."
Protest organizers said many marchers plan to don costumes and carry giant puppets some worn over their heads to emphasize their anti-globalization message.
"They're going to have to arrest thousands and thousands of people," said David Graeber of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, an anarchist group. "It's not going to be good."
The forum has hired private security personnel for inside the hotels, but officials said yesterday that they will not subsidize police overtime or other expenses.
"When we talked to [former mayor Rudolph W.] Giuliani, he said, 'We will take care of it,'" said forum spokesman Charles McLean.
Organizers said yesterday that they have amended the program and guest list for the annual meeting to better focus on the causes and aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"We had to change the program because the world had entered a new phase," said Mr. Schwab, who was in New York on business on September 11. The theme for the 2002 meeting is "leadership in fragile times," rather than focusing on the recession.
Corporate executives, finance ministers, civic representatives and even entertainers already have begun arriving in New York for the meeting, a glittering gathering of elites that has drawn the anger of anti-globalization protesters.
Some 2,700 influential invitees are expected, including 300 political figures, 40 religious leaders, 35 labor representatives and 100 academics and as many nongovernmental organizations. The remaining guests are business leaders like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, many of whom are subsidizing the event with fees of more than $18,000, not including accommodations.
Many members of the U.S. government will be participating in all or part of the forum, including: Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans, Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson and a dozen lawmakers.
High government officials from about 100 countries including France, Canada, Japan, Peru, Israel, Switzerland, South Korea, Poland, Brazil, South Africa and other nations will also attend the event, which has for 32 years been held in somewhat more spartan quarters in Davos, a Swiss alpine village.
A dozen leaders of developing nations are scheduled to make presentations in an effort to stimulate investment.
Forum officials said yesterday that by adding Middle East and Islamic themes to the official program of lectures, panel discussions, informal conversations and catered meals they hoped to create an environment where "root causes" of terrorism such as poverty and inequality can be addressed.
"The world needs to move from a necessary coalition against terrorism to a more necessary coalition for development," said Jose Maria Figueres, who heads the WEF Center for the Global Agenda. He said the global issues are so complex that they require a "systemic approach" that is the hallmark of the forum.
Organizers say the beauty of their gathering is the synergy created by strange bedfellows. By tossing labor, religious and business leaders into thought-provoking panel discussions and then encouraging them to stay in touch, the theory goes, everyone will learn something.
Ironically, the strangest and some of the most useful bedfellows may be the protesters who are distributing leaflets throughout Manhattan demanding the forum be shut down.
Officials have privately conceded that interest in the organization's worth has skyrocketed since it became a focal point for demonstrators' anger.
Indeed, more than 300 reporters are accredited to cover the New York events, more than in any previous year and a fraction of those who applied for credentials.
Organizers moved this year's conference from Davos partly to show solidarity with the city after the attacks. It will return to the Swiss village next year.
Meanwhile, anti-globalization protesters have been busy planning their own agenda. Formal demonstrations have been scheduled for Friday and Saturday, but civil disobedience is anticipated throughout the event.
The promised police crackdown on masks dates to the mid-19th century, when tenant farmers wore disguises during protests and riots against their landlords. A federal appeals court upheld the no-mask law after a 1999 court challenge by the Ku Klux Klan.
Presumably, the forum's participants will spend more money than they cost the city.
Cristyne L. Nicholas, president of NYC & Company, the city's tourism bureau, said her office estimated the 2,700 delegates alone will spend $12 million to $18 million in lodging, transportation, entertainment and food.
Throw in the spousal shopping sprees and expenses of the rest of the entourage, she said, and it could be upward of $100 million.
"Even that could be conservative," she said. "We're not counting the demonstrators, all of whom have to buy food and transportation and sleep somewhere. And don't forget, some of them are professional protesters who travel business class."
This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide