Demonstrators descend on D.C.

W By Eric Fung

The Hoya
Georgetown University

wASHINGTON, Oct. 1 – At least five Georgetown University students were among more than 649 people arrested during anti-globalization and anti-capitalist protests held this past weekend in conjunction with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank’s annual meeting. The arrests thwarted protesters’ attempts to shut down activity in downtown Washington, D.C.

The protesters gathered in the District this weekend to oppose what they said are unfair IMF policies that benefit wealthier nations at the expense of Third World nations.

“The IMF forces countries into abiding [its objectives] by [making] policies that are often harmful to the people of those developing countries,” Georgetown Solidarity Committee spokeswoman Ginny Leavell (COL ’05) said. “Groups in countries taking the loan are not allowed access to meetings with the IMF and have no idea what their own country is agreeing to.”

According to BBC news, there were reports of protesters throwing rocks, detonating smoke bombs and making hoax 911 calls.

“I cannot confirm that it was the demonstrators, but there were false calls to our emergency services during Friday morning,” Quintin Peterson of the Metropolitan Police Department Press Office said.

The protesters chanted “People over profit” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” as police stood with riot gear on foot, motorcycles and horseback. The police on the scene came from as far as Chicago, Peterson said.

Lt. Brian Bray of MPD said that most arrests were made because protesters failed to obey orders and obstructed traffic. Bray spent the weekend as part of the Second District’s 21st Platoon of the Civil Disturbance Unit.

“Most of those who were arrested were charged with misdemeanors except those who were charged with destruction of property, because of the value of the property they destroyed.” Bray said.

Some, however, accused the police of using draconian methods. Five students from the GSC who attended Friday’s protests were taken into custody, according to Luke Bailey (SFS ’06).

“At Freedom Plaza we were all assembled peacefully at our legal, permitted location until the police forced us into Pershing Park, where they then surrounded us and refused to let us leave,” Leavell said. “They then Ö moved in army-like formation and started arresting everyone, and not being gentle about it at all.”

Georgetown freshman Ev Yankey (COL ’06) said being arrested “was a new and frightening experience.”

“Whenever you just read about people’s civil rights being violated in the news media, you never really believe that what they claim can really be happening.” Yankey said. “When I was arrested on Friday morning, we saw for ourselves the tragic applications of ‘justice’ that are perpetrated against those who nonviolently voice dissent in this country.”

Leavell agreed that the arrests were completely out of line.

“We were all then held for 26 hours in handcuffs, 18 of which were spent on a gym floor at the Metropolitan Police Academy handcuffed wrist to ankle.” Leavell said. “The arrests were illegal, as the police forced us off of our permitted area and into the park, where they gave no order to disperse and systematically arrested everyone in the area.”

Earlier on Friday, Georgetown students also participated in the Critical Mass Bike Rally, an event to advocate environmentally friendly forms of transportation. The 50 or so bike riders participating in this demonstration were escorted by an equal number of cops, according to Bailey.

“Our ride was peaceful unless someone tried to pass through wall of bike cops riding along side us, in which case the bikers were physically shoved back, some falling off their bikes,” Bailey said. “We didn’t seem to inconvenience many car commuters that morning, probably because we were lacking numbers, but I hope that those that did see us witnessed a positive, fun protest for a worthy cause.”

Protests continued throughout the weekend. Thousands converged in Dupont Circle Sunday to protest impending war with Iraq, including about 30 Georgetown students.

The march led activists from Dupont through Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue and ended at Vice President Dick Cheney’s residence. No arrests were made during Sunday’s march.

“The Bush administration’s policy of preemptive action violates international law and perpetuates a cycle of violence,” Brian Levinson (SFS, ’04), a member of Georgetown’s Amnesty International, who traveled by bus to the site, said.

The protest, which began at 2 p.m., drew an estimated 3,000 protestors and an almost equal number of law enforcement officials.

“For every short-term military solution, we create a number of long term problems,” Levinson said. “It was the United States, for example, that originally supported Saddam Hussein. How many seeds of war are we going to plant in this new conflict?”

MPD Chief of Police Charles H. Ramsey said the events were handled successfully. “The vast majority of people in D.C. this past weekend were part of that great tradition of passionate but peaceful protest – of having your voice heard while respecting the rights of D.C.’s citizens. Our police officers and community partners performed exceptionally well in helping to uphold that tradition and keep the peace,” Ramsey said in an MPD press release.