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Finance Protesters a Diverse Bunch

April 16, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ They are students, activists, college professors, laborers, anarchists, high school teachers, retirees _ and legions of young people learning the pleasures of protest discovered a generation ago by their parents.

Their backgrounds, ages and individual causes vary, but what the demonstrators in Washington this weekend have in common is a sense that global capitalism is leaving too many people behind.

``The one commonality is a feeling of anti-corporate control,″ said one of them, Bill Carey, a 46-year-old member of United Steelworkers from Gary, Ind.

Thousands roamed the streets through the weekend to protest world financial policies _ people from all walks of life. Many talked of a growing awareness of financial concepts like ``structural adjustment″ and ``transnational corporations.″

They cited examples of global capitalism run amok in far-off places like Bolivia, Indonesia and Lesotho, with the privatization of water resources, building of dams, speculative investment or harsh debt-repayment schedules.

Brenda Dolling, a 55-year-old retired teacher from the Toronto area, said she’s been upset about ``structural adjustment″ ever since she learned about changes the international financial institutions require of countries to obtain loans. She spent several years as a teacher in Lesotho, a poor, Belgium-sized country of 2.1 million people that is surrounded by South Africa.

``In order to pay their debts, countries have to cut funding for things like education, the environment and health care,″ she said, noting many people in poor countries are hurt by the levels of debt from IMF and World Bank loans.

Jesse Lemisch, 63, a history professor from New York City, said this is why he came to the rally: ``I really oppose the horrors of international capitalism.″

Lemisch was active in civil rights protests and other causes in the 1960s, and he’s involved again because he wants to notify the World Bank, the IMF and President Clinton ``that they cannot get away with this monstrous behavior.″

A different perspective came from 18-year-old Kim Cook, a college student from Chicago.

``It’s been exciting to see this many people pulling together on one issue,″ she said, as she locked arms in a street blockade. ``People need to have a say in decisions that affect their lives.″

Some of the younger protesters were people wearing masks who sprinted from one street corner to the next looking for mischief. Others were professionals with a growing interest in the movement, people like Alan Bushnell, 23, a computer specialist at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

``It’s silly to deny the reality of globalism,″ Bushnell said. ``But I want to learn more about what’s going on.″

Many protesters were social activists from different parts of the country, like Erick Brownstein, 29, a San Francisco environmental organizer. He had close-cropped brown hair and a conservative appearance, except for a red, round clown nose.

``I wanted to inject a little humor into the event,″ Brownstein said with a straight face. ``And I wanted to communicate the message `Who are these clowns running the world? Who put these clowns in charge?‴

Some protesters seemed a bit uneasy with the more revolutionary folks in the rally, even if they agreed on the general theme.

Chuck Reinhardt, a 50-year-old high school history teacher from New York City, explained his reasons for participating in a pleasant, low-key manner and occasionally looked nervously over his shoulder. A wild-haired man in a leather cap was shouting at the police repeatedly while staring vacantly at the sky.

Reinhardt grinned sheepishly, as he explained: ``We’re not all like that, you know.″

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