Thursday, April 20, 2006

Metropolitan Police yesterday announced street closures around the Northwest headquarters of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the financial institutions’ annual spring meetings this weekend.

To accommodate scheduled protests, police will cordon off 18th, 19th and 20th streets Northwest, between G Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, beginning after today’s afternoon rush hour and continuing through Sunday evening.

Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest will remain open to cars, but police will restrict truck traffic. There will be no truck access on Pennsylvania Avenue between 17th and 23rd streets Northwest.

Police have canceled leave for officers and will turn on the network of closed-circuit television cameras.

Protest organizers say they have changed their tactics from the large and sometimes unruly demonstrations that have characterized their past efforts.

“This year, for various reasons we decided not to hold a big public demonstration and rally and to focus more on creative, street-theater-type activities,” said Basav Sen, a spokesman for the Mobilization for Global Justice.

Mr. Sen said organizers changed their tactics to focus on two specific issues: health care and displacement. They are planning two main demonstrations, each of which is expected to occur today.

Protesters with the Mobilization for Global Justice have a noon street-theater demonstration planned today at 19th and H streets Northwest.

The group says that World Bank/IMF policies have limited access to basic medical care, forced governments to spend more on debt service than health care, and privatized health services so that people cannot afford medical care.

Mr. Sen said another street-theater demonstration is planned in front of the Northwest home of World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz at 9:30 p.m. The groups will deliver a symbolic “eviction notice.”

“The message being that the policies of the World Bank have literally driven lots of people from their homes, so let’s give them a taste of their own medicine,” he said.

Other protest groups have indicated that tomorrow, which is traditionally the largest day for the demonstrations, will focus on various educational and training seminars not in the vicinity of the financial institutions.

And while Sunday is billed as a “day of direct action,” no specific rallies or demonstrations have been announced.

The financial institutions hold meetings twice a year — in April and in September — and the meetings typically draw protesters from around the country. Demonstrations during the April meetings lately have been smaller than those later in the year.

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