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Finance Protesters a Diverse Bunch

April 17, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Teen-ager Kim Cook doesn’t know that much yet about the complexities of world financial politics. Economics professor Robin Hahnel knows the system, and doesn’t like it.

Like thousands of others protesting the meetings of global finance groups here Sunday and today, they worry that international capitalism is overshadowing people.

``I’m completely opposed to corporate-sponsored globalism,″ said Hahnel, a 54-year-old professor at American University. ``For the past 15 years or so, large corporations have had a free hand in rewriting the rules of international economics.″

``It’s been exciting to see this many people pulling together on one issue,″ said Cook, 18, of Chicago, as she locked arms in a street blockade. ``People need to have a say in decisions that affect their lives.″

The two were among the thousands of students, activists, college professors, laborers, anarchists, high school teachers, retirees _ and especially young people who came to voice their concerns.

``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, many talking of a growing awareness of financial concepts like ``structural adjustment″ and ``transnational corporations.″

They said global capitalism has 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, adding that 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.″

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.″

Other protesters were social activists, 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?‴

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