IMF in DC begins

colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Tue Apr 18 12:18:15 CDT 2000


[ed:  here is Chad's last installment from A16.  It provides an 
interesting elaboration of the news sound bites.]

FROM: Chad Burger <ChadAB419 at collegeclub.com>	

Monday night  (Okay it's really Tuesday morning and I am
filing this from Toledo.)

I don't know how I was so remiss in my post last [Sunday] night.  I 
suspect it was exhaustion.  I didn't mention where it was I was coming 
from.   I had been at a spokescouncil meeting for empowered spokes 
from every affinity group, cluster and sector, plus other interested 
individuals.  There were
about 600 people in the basement gymnasium of a church trying to plan 
today's action through a consensus process.  With 600 people there are 
many points of clarification and process.  Needless to say, the 
process was a very long one. With all these people the temperature 
seemed about thirty
degrees higher in the basement than the rest of the church, and the 
walls were so moist the newsprint bled through almost immediately 
after being taped to the brick wall.  I left after three and a half 
hours, when we finally reached a point where I could at least report 
back to my affinity
group with the where and when of the action and a rough idea of the 
what.  This was not a meeting I would hope to repeat.

The reports that we received at the meeting included the
state's preparations for today.  There was to be a 100
square block "no-traffic/protest" zone around the IMF,
National Guard troops had been mobilized and were being
quartered in an elementary school within the no-protest
zone (talk about a need for guns out of schools), and that
one lane of Interstate 395 was closed just to facilitate
the movement of military vehicles to the District from
installations in Virginia.

Some autonomous affinity groups and clusters had decided to
do more lockdowns similar to yesterday, but these were
scheduled for around 4:30 am, before the IMF/WB delegates
moved to the Kennedy Center to be transported to the days
meetings.  Our group chose not to participate, but rather
to join the mass gathering of protestors at 8:30, on the
edge of the no-protest zone, at Constitution and 18th.  We
were late getting to the gathering point (I think I already
sensed at least one trait emerging within our group).  We
spotted some other protestors rounding the ellipse and
hurried to fall in with them.  The group we joined moved
briskly and caught up with the larger march.

The march was moving up the middle of 14th street with much
splendor.  There were many puppets, flags and signs and
most importantly, people.  We were chanting loudly, waving
to the workers in the buildings we passed, and reminding
the police who ligned areas of the street that this was a
non-violent protest.

Eventually, the march was moving down I street to where
Pennsylvania avenue cuts across at an angle.  The march
turned around the triangular end of the small block and
came face to face with many riot police spread along
barricades across Pennsylvania Ave. and 20th St.  At this
point the one of the people who seemed to be on top of what
the overall plan was moving through the crowd announcing
that anyone willing to be arrested should move to the front
of the group and anyone unarrestable should move out of
the street and up into the small park.  Our group quickly
reached a consensus that we wanted to stay, with one person
choosing individually to move up into the park.  While this
was happening a column of police motorcycles came in behind
us on Pennsylvania, and more police vans appeared behind
them.  Then for some reason after sitting there for a
minute the motorcycles all headed out again.  This was a
move we observed several times during the protest, about 15
of the motorcycles would come zipping in somewhere and only
stay for a few minutes then all leave in formation.  While
the motorcycles were sitting there it was announced that
there was a route of egress down 21st St. for anyone who
wanted to leave.  At this point the group began to thin
even more.  Within the space of about 15-20 minutes the
size seemed to have gone from a few thousand to several
hundred, maybe a thousand.  Also at this time the police
were pulling up empty school busses and lining them up in
adjacent streets so they now had the capacity to hold
several hundred people on hand.  The police were playing a
waiting game and it was working.

Watching how the crowd was continuing to grow smaller and
the cop presence was increasing our group decided to leave
this scene.  We worked quickly to come to a decision that
everyone was okay with.  The feeling within the group was
that at this point we would have been getting arrested more
for bad tactics than for good cause.  Although we reached
the decision it wasn't without a great deal of
consternation.  We were frustrated at the way things were
going, and many group members voiced serious reservations
about not standing beside other protestors who were
staying.

Our group's feeling was that the march should have kept
this critical mass moving in some direction rather than
stopping for the police.  We also questioned whether the
decision to keep repeating the ways not to be arrested at
the standoff encouraged more people to leave at the cost of
diminishing group cohesion.  We felt that everyone in the
street should have been aware that this was inherently
risky and they should act accordingly without what seemed
like encouragement to leave.

One part of this that I am happy with is that we were
immediately analyzing what we could learn from the way
events unfolded.  One of our thoughtful group members did a
great job of framing the conversation in terms of "next
time we will..." statements instead of "next time they
should..."

At this point we headed down 21st St. away from the larger
group.  As we were walking we encountered a woman who told
us that a group that had chosen to do the early morning
lockdowns had been beaten brutally by plain clothes cops
and arrested.  The report was that about fifty protestors
had gone out early in the morning while it was still dark
and there were no media present, and likely not any legal
observers, and were met by about a hundred cops who beat
all of the protestors severely.  The group was reported to
be held at a facility that was not one of the two sites
that the police had reported publicly were where they were
holding people.  We set out to spread the word to increase
jail solidarity for these people.

A minute later we encountered a whole platoon of police
with there shields down and clubs and large canisters of
pepper spray at the ready turning from G St. up 21st St. to
flank the protestors from what they thought was their safe
side.  We couldn't find the cell phone number of people we
thought were still up the hill with the larger protest, so
we stayed behind the marching cops and shouted "Spread the
word" in unison to warn the people up the hill.  A couple
of other people joined in to make our voice as loud as it
could be.

Once the platoon was further up the street five empty
school buses came down G street and turned up 20th St.
toward the standoff.  With the report from the morning, the
marching platoon we just passed and even more busses on
hand, we felt like all the protestors were about to be
scooped up and possibly even get there asses kicked by the
cops.

As we heard on the news later, the standoff held and
protestors negotiated with police.  The protestors got the
police to put there badges on, something that the group was
chanting for earlier.  You should have heard D.C.'s top cop
squealing through his teeth about how the police had no
badges on because it was raining and they had taken their
raincoats on and off.  Of course it didn't have anything to
do with this being a usual police tactic to increase
anonymity and intimidation and protect them in case someone
got them on film brutalizing someone.  The report also said
that the police had agreed to remove their gas masks.  The
third concession we heard was that the protestors were
allowed to cross the barrier in small groups of about five
to approach the IMF/WB building and yell or flip the
building off or whatever and then be immediately arrested.

Our group talked about this and felt that walking across
the line and being arrested might be a perfect symbolic
action at demos like the SOA, but the symbolism felt kind
of hollow here after we had been winning.

That was about all for us.  This was a completely
exhilarating, exhausting, uplifting, incredibly powerful
experience, that I can't even think of how to adequately
describe yet.

I would recommend that everyone try it. There will be other
opportunities.  The republican national convention (R2K) is
coming up in Philly at the end of July.  The republicans
seem to think that they are going to shut down the whole
city for their event, some other people have ideas of their
own about shutting down the city.  And if you a

Chad Burger

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anti-copyrite 2000









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