World Finance Protests Disrupt D.C.
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Workers in the nation’s capital, usually unfazed by marches, motorcades and traffic jams, are watching warily as hordes of demonstrators pour in to demonstrate against two big financial institutions.
Since Sunday, daily protests tied to the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have led to rolling disruptions of Washington’s springtime tranquility, from the Capitol to Embassy Row.
While both institutions have been granted temporary diplomatic status and Secret Service protection and thousands of police have been deployed to protect government offices, many businesses and institutions have strengthened security. The George Washington University, situated just a few blocks from the World Bank and IMF, canceled classes through Monday.
``Members are asking us if they should board up their windows,″ said Patricia Thornton, a spokeswoman for the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District. The downtown business group represents the owners of 304 office buildings and their 6,000 business tenants.
Dozens of groups are expected to take part in ``economic justice″ events, including the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, so anyone approaching the meeting sites without proper credentials is unlikely to be allowed within a ring of steel barriers surrounding several blocks in the heart of downtown and patrolled by scores of uniformed police.
``If they (workers) normally carry backpacks or items that might appear suspicious, they might want to leave them home,″ said Thornton.
Some employers have already decided to close Sunday and Monday when the largest demonstrations are planned.
``Our employees will work from home or other PEPCO locations,″ said Tom Welle, a spokesman for the Potomac Electric Power Co. headquartered across the street from the World Bank.
``Our number one priority is safety,″ said Barbara Porter, spokeswoman for George Washington University. The university will close from tonight until Tuesday morning because many of its 12,000 employees work within the security zone.
Although Porter acknowledges that many of the school’s 17,000 students are likely to take part in at least some of the demonstrations, overnight dormitory guest privileges have been suspended and the 3,000 residents must show identification to enter.
While some restaurants will cater for law enforcement officers from kitchens behind the locked doors of darkened dining rooms, others plan to conduct business as usual.
``We’ll be here all day Friday and Monday,″ said Craig Bixler of a Wall Street Deli location near the World Bank and IMF buildings. But he admits that many of his regular customers say they’re taking Monday off.
On Thursday, some 50 demonstrators gathered at GWU, voicing displeasure with the institution’s statement that students would not be allowed to house visitors in their dorm rooms.
Holding a sign that read ``GWU: Serve the students, not corporate greed,″ Kristy Gomes, a senior, criticized the university for not discussing the decisions with students.
Later, the protesters joined a demonstration at a Starbucks coffee shop. Carrying signs that read ``Fair Trade, not Free Trade,″ more than 100 people denounced the use of sweatshops and called for an end to the IMF and World Bank.
The group then marched several blocks to a Gap clothing store, followed closely by five squad cars and about 15 police officers on motorcycles. The protest was largely peaceful, although officers occasionally had to herd the group from the street back onto the sidewalk.
EDITOR’S NOTE _ Derrill Holly covers the District of Columbia for The Associated Press.