- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 8, 2004

Thousands of protesters are expected to present more than 10,000 “Unhappy Birthday” cards during the annual demonstration against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund later this month, according to Mobilization for Global Justice officials.

A number of organizations have joined Mobilization for Global Justice in claiming that the economic policies of the World Bank and IMF have impoverished countries throughout the world. They also say the two 60-year-old institutions have supported projects that force poor people to abandon their homes and hinder their access to food, health care and education.

In preparation for the April 21-25 meetings, organizers yesterday said they are meeting with Metropolitan and U.S. Park police to avoid problems that resulted in more than 400 persons being arrested and handcuffed in September 2002.

Last year, the protest against the World Bank and IMF merged with antiwar demonstrations, and in 2000, more than 25,000 protesters virtually closed downtown Washington. A year earlier the protesters shut down the annual World Trade Organization summit in Seattle.

“We hope we can cooperate with police for a large and safe response” this year, said David Levy, an organizer for Mobilization for Global Justice.

Mobilization members want all World Bank and IMF meetings to be open to the public and news organizations. The group is also calling for the writing off of poor countries’ debts, an end to policies that it says hinder people in those countries from access to food, health care and education, and an end to support for corporate projects such as mining and dam-building that they say destroy the environment and force people to move.

The demonstrations will begin at noon April 21 as protesters gather at the World Bank and IMF offices at 18th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. That’s when the pink and blue “Unhappy Birthday” cards will be presented.

The next day, the Religious Working Group, a coalition representing religious denominations, institutions and organizations, will sponsor a vigil at the same site. On April 23, a conference will be held at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in the 1300 block NW, to discuss abolishing the two world fiscal organizations.

On April 24, a five-hour rally and march begins at Franklin Square, 14th and K streets NW, then circles around the office buildings of a couple of large financial corporations en route to the World Bank and IMF. Protesters will also celebrate the 10th birthday of the “50 Years Is Enough Network,” which describes itself on its Web site as “a coalition of over 200 U.S. grass-roots, women’s, solidarity, faith-based, policy, social- and economic-justice, youth, labor and development organizations dedicated to the profound transformation of the World Bank and the IMF.”

Njoki Njoroge Njehu, director of 50 Years Is Enough, said several hundred women from around the world plan to join in the protests and then participate April 25 in the March for Women’s Lives on the National Mall. The gathering will comprise pro-choice groups.

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