On the Road Again

Having lost the possibility of surprise in the days after the Seattle, the Global Justice Movement’s cacophony of voices was successful with the theatre of bringing its message to the world. A coalition of debt reduction activists, anarchists, pagans, queer/AIDS activists made their presence known for the weekend of protests. Activists barely got off the ground on Friday morning before facing police. Around 9 am, forty members of the Pagan Cluster were arrested at the Blake Building on K St. just down from the intersection of 17th St. Their march had started quiet and peacefully in Dupont Circle. Police moved in as the cluster danced, chanted, and weaving a circle around the intersection of K & 17. Blowing bubbles, chanting, drumming, dancing, the cluster watched the police surrounded them, blocking the sidewalks in front, the sidewalks in back.

The story was the same for countless groups throughout the day. Yet, the strategy was similar. A critical mass style bike ride to Freedom Plaza was disrupted by the police in a similar fashion earlier that morning. Police cordoned off some 300 bikers at Pershing Park, separating them from activists at Freedom Plaza. By standards and activists alike complained about the police overkill. “They closed Freedom Plaza and turned it into a non-Freedom Plaza,” Joseph Mayer, a retired Army Lieutenant colonel, explained. Other activists were simply arrested for marching without a permit. As always, part of the strategy of the peaceful protests was to expose the aggressive nature of the police. In the end, 649 activists were arrested preemptively during the People’s Strike organized by the Anti-Capitalist Convergence on Friday October 28th. Activists were acutely aware that the arrests took place not because of any “threat” to the City but because of the vocal opposition to the IMF, World Bank, and War for Oil.

Arrestees were taken to the Police Academy outside of D.C. Those arrested reported it took some 6 hours to be processed and move them into the gym. Many reported long discussions with some of the police there, who were angry at having to pull double shifts to control the protests. My friend and I overheard one policeman complaining he’d been written up for refusing to arrest an activist who had done nothing wrong.

The main events of the Saturday protests were the ACT UP/ Healthgap/ Jubilee USA Drop the Dept March. After a brief rally highlighting speakers from ACT UP, Africa Action, and Health GAP, the diverse group of marchers demanded an end to the Global AIDS crisis and the cancellation of debt for developing countries through loud chants, and colorful signs and banners.

“We have returned to Washington because the rich countries still haven’t got it right,” explained Kris Hermes of Health GAP. “Despite poverty and death due to AIDS being on the rise, the IMF and WB refuse to cancel the debt of the most impoverished countries. It is unacceptable that money be robbed from essential services like health care while over 8,000 people a day continue to die from AIDS.”

“At best, Treasury is standing by as IMF/WB policies kill people,” says John Bell, of ACT UP Philadelphia. “At worst, they are helping the IMF/WB to obstruct the social and economic development of poor countries — taking a direct role in the death of millions.” The US Treasury is being targeted as the principal financier and architect of IMF/WB policies. Through debt and loan conditions, these institutions have worsened or destroyed the lives of millions of people struggling to survive in poor countries around the world.

The demands of the marchers, like the demands of thousands of people coming to protest these institutions, are the cancellation of all impoverished country debt owed to the IMF/WB, and an end to structural adjustment policies that result in the denial of access to health care and life-saving drugs through privatization and the imposition of “user fees.”

“It’s really quite simple,” says Marie Clarke, National Coordinator for Jubilee USA. “When impoverished countries are relieved of their debt, they spend more on social services like health care and, as a direct result, lives are saved-allowing children a better chance to reach their potential.”

The scope of the debt problem is staggering. Sub-Saharan Africa owes over $300 billion in debt and will spend $14.5 billion on debt repayments this year. This annual figure is roughly the estimated dollar amount needed to address AIDS and related diseases in Africa.

One of the most important elements of the largely successful IMF/World Bank protests over the last weekend in September was the movement’s continued ability to push itself on a public agenda. The evening news/ war pep rally was constantly interrupted with countless images of activists willing to be arrested to fight corporate globalization. While the police, entertainment, war 10 o’clock news script attempted to stay on message about a need a preemptive attack, their message was disrupted with images of mass dissent. News reports across the world covered the images of activists standing up against the frenzy like attempt by the Bush administration to push its war agenda, shielding itself from a weak economy and the aftershock of corporate scandal.

After months of 9/11 backlash and forth, opposition is alive and well.

Ben Shepard can be reached at: benshepard@mindspring.com


More articles by:
Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Do We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring