The first official day of protests against the policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund started pretty ugly for me, but after I picked myself up off the ground from a ridiculous full frontal assault by the D.C. police force, the day managed to be quite interesting.
Here are some of the sights:
Before noon, a lone policeman stands in a cordoned-off Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House.
Various masked protestors sit in the middle of a downtown street. Earlier I had started to take a picture of a different group of maybe two dozen
protesters sitting in the middle of 15th Street when two from the circle -- a diminutive young man and a porcine, nose-pierced young woman -- approached me and told me to stop taking pictures of their "private meeting." I asked how any meeting could possibly be considered "private" if it was being conducted in the middle of a city street at noon. The two then accused me of trying to take away their constitutional right to assemble;
I eventually gave up because they were so annoying. If the heads of the World Bank and the IMF ever met the duo, they would quickly be annoyed into submission.
A happy protester sports a papier-mbchi costume of the three-headed cobra of
corporate globalism. Poking their heads out from the cobra's flared hood are
Michael Moore, director general of the World Trade Organization; Stanley
Fischer, acting managing director of the International Monetary Fund; and
World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn.
More papier-mbchi -- a nice likeness of "Bill 'Corporate Puppet' Clinton."
Not all exchanges between cops and protesters were ugly. Here a U.S. Park Police officer in full riot gear poses with a cute couple of protesters while
his colleague in blue snaps the photo.
Though all of the protesters were united in their disdain for "The Man,"
there was a cornucopia of lefty interests represented at the rally. The Puerto Rican nationalist group Armed National Liberation Front or
FALN made an appearance, as did members of ACT-UP, various labor unions,
and here -- in traditional costume -- members of the Congress for Korean
Reunification take it to the streets.
Since the areas surrounding the IMF, World Bank and Treasury Building were cordoned
off to the protesters -- as well as the general public -- by the
Metropolitan Police Department, protesters decided to go on an impromptu
march west on E Street, looping around near George Washington University,
and then east on Constitution Avenue back to the Ellipse.
... But MPD cops, alerted to the spontaneous march, whipped into action to
get in the way of the march near Constitution and C Streets.
Within minutes enough riot-gear-clad cops had appeared to form a blockade.
... as well as several reinforcement blockades.
Conflict was avoided, however, thanks largely to the members of labor
unions involved in the rally, who had appointed dozens of marshals, or
"Peace Keepers," to make sure that the scruffier and scrappier members of
their alliance didn't provoke the police. Here several of them -- in telltale neon-orange vests -- join hands to get their
brothers and sisters in protest to take a right on C Street instead of
marching into the cops.
It worked. "Just trying to keep the peace," said Anthony Thigpenn, 47,
from Los Angeles. Another peace keeper, Howard Croft -- a University of the
District of Columbia professor of urban affairs and a member of the
National Education Association -- later assessed that "union people are
trying to keep tensions low." Participation in the rally is "part of
labor's rebirth," he added. "The union movement is no longer just focused
on workers' rights and workers' wages in a narrow sense" but on a more
global scale, he said.
The U.S. Park Police prepare for a peaceful trot around the Ellipse.
At nearby George Washington University, members of the Delta Tau Delta
fraternity fight for their right to party. (Not visible in the picture: a
George W. Bush for President poster in a top-floor window.)
By mid-afternoon, back at the Ellipse, many protesters were sacking out in the sun.
Speeches on the stage continued, despite waning crowds in the immediate area. Here Andrew Boyd and John Greebe of United for a Fair Economy perform a skit as
members of the Free Trade Cell Phone Drill Team.