- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2008

What if they held a protest and hardly anybody came?

The far-left ANSWER coalition — a group that has drawn thousands of anti-war protesters to Washington in the past — mustered about 10 demonstrators Saturday outside the National Building Museum, site of the G-20 economic summit.

Other G-20 protests drew larger crowds but, ironically, the largest protests Saturday weren’t about ending global capitalism at all.

About 300 demonstrators supporting Tibetan independence marched outside the summit, and were joined by a smaller group from the spiritual movement Falun Gong in protesting Chinese human rights policies.

In the afternoon, the pro-Tibet demonstrators were countered by more than 200 people supporting the Chinese government. They waved China’s red-and-gold flag and held a sign that read “Welcome President Hu Jintao to the United States of America.”

In what may have been the biggest demonstration, about 500 gay-marriage supporters marched from the Capitol to the White House to protest a same-sex marriage ban in California.

The group is part of a nationwide protest Saturday against the Proposition 8 referendum, which recently stripped gay couples of the right to marry.

The greatest disruption for area residents and tourists came from the visiting foreign leaders themselves — the largest such gathering here in nearly 10 years.

Downtown traffic ground to a halt for much of the afternoon, with motorcade disruptions reported throughout the city as dignitaries were shuttled to the summit. Traffic was at its worst when the summit disbanded later in the day, as the leaders’ motorcades snaked back across the city for more than a dozen speeches and press conferences that occurred virtually simultaneously.

At Murrow park, near the World Bank Building at 18th and Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, about 150 members of Global Justice Action, a coalition of activist groups formed to protest the summit, gathered for a “People´s Summit.”

“This crisis is the result of the ruthless pursuit of profit; we must reject the G-20, and the people of the world must demand social justice for all,” said Dennis Brutus, a South African poet who was an activist against the old apartheid government in his country.

Around Mr. Brutus, activists carried signs and posters with slogans such as “Free People Not Trade” and “Capitalism: Let it Die”.

At about noon, the protesters marched from the park to Luther Place at Logan Circle, where they held a “People´s Forum,” in which speakers from various activist groups offered their own ideas about the causes of the current economic crisis and suggested alternative solutions.

Organizers for Global Justice Action had estimated that up to 1,000 people would attend.

“I think this was more preaching to the faithful, in any event, but I wish we had more people show up,” said Joey Datchan, a student at American University and a member of the D.C. Students for a Democratic Society.

“The turnout was about what I expected, a small but really good, energetic group of students and activists,” said Mackenzie Baris of D.C. Jobs with Justice.

Nasty weather may have been a factor in the low turnout, with the National Weather Service issuing a tornado watch for the Washington area until 7 p.m. on Saturday. Heavy rain and wind pummeled downtown in the early afternoon.

Metropolitan Police also made mass gatherings difficult. Around 2,000 officers were on hand throughout the day.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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