Arthur Santana & Paul Blustein
©Washington Post, August 13, 2001
IMF and World Bank to Shorten Talks: With Protests Threatened,
Meetings Next Month Will Be Held to 2 Days
WASHINGTON The World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund have decided to drastically shorten their autumn
meetings because of concern about violent protests, as
Washington officials plan to ask the federal government Monday
to underwrite a massive expansion of the city's security effort
during the sessions.
The World Bank and the IMF said late Friday that their annual
meetings would be "consolidated" to two days - the weekend of
Sept. 29 and 30. That is a drastic reduction from the original
schedule, under which the meetings would have begun a couple of
days before that weekend and run through Oct. 3. Protesters had
planned actions from Sept. 28 through Oct. 4.
The decision to shorten the meetings is the latest in a series of
moves aimed at minimizing the potential for violence during such
gatherings. The death of a protester in a clash with the police at the
Group of Eight summit meeting in Genoa last month added to
already heightened concerns.
The World Trade Organization is holding its biannual meeting in
the Gulf emirate of Qatar in November, and the G-8 summit
meeting for next year is planned for a remote locale in the
"The World Bank and IMF fully share the interest of the U.S.
authorities, in their role as host of the event, in ensuring the
conduct of all essential business with the least possible disruption
to the people who live and work in Washington," the statement
said. It added that the decision was subject to formal approval
Washington police officials welcomed the decision, saying it would
allow the city to reduce its request for federal money to $38
million from $50 million. The funds are for additional security
measures that would include fencing off parts of the city and
bringing in thousands of police officers from other jurisdictions.
Protesters said the change would not have a major impact on their
plans, and they decried the police buildup as a waste of taxpayer
Shortening the IMF-World Bank annual meetings to two days
marks a major change. Although the formal reason for the
meetings is to get representatives to approve changes in IMF and
World Bank policies, they have provided a venue for private
financiers and government officials to rub shoulders, exchange
information and, in some cases, conduct business.
The prospect of hotels being stormed and streets filled with tear
gas had already raised doubts in some minds about the chances
for much socializing or private business this year. But reducing the
meetings to a single weekend would further shrink that sort of
extracurricular activity, along with the academic-style seminars and
panel discussions that also are a hallmark of the gatherings.
"If it's only two days, there will be a loss of time for dialogue," said
Merrell Tuck, a World Bank spokeswoman. "We see that as an
unfortunate result of a few more violent elements."
The protesters' plans include surrounding the White House on
Sept. 29 and holding a massive rally in the city center the next day.
"It's a waste of taxpayers' money to militarize the city and the
police force," said Adam Eidinger, an organizer with Mobilization
for Global Justice, one of the main activist coalitions helping to
plan demonstrations this autumn. He and other protesters said their
plans were nonviolent.
"We're preparing for a peaceful protest," Mr. Eidinger said. "The
police are preparing for a violent protest."
But Terrance Gainer, executive assistant police chief of
Washington, pointed to a succession of clashes, starting in Seattle
in November 1999, as the reason for the security measures.
At the spring meetings of the World Bank and the IMF in
Washington in April 2000, protesters fought police officers, and a
section of the city was blocked off. The protests resulted in more
than 600 arrests.
Protests have turned violent in Quebec, Prague and Genoa, where
a protester was shot and then run over by Italian police officers.
Complaints of police brutality there - not including the shooting -
have been substantiated by Italian police officials.
Activists of all stripes are organizing small and large
demonstrations in conjunction with the IMF and World Bank
meetings - from mainstream groups such as the AFL-CIO labor
federation to radical anti-capitalist organizations.
At the heart of the varied protests are the issues that have brought
thousands into the streets in recent years.
Organizers say those issues include the extent of corporate control
over the world economy, the loss of workers' rights in the global
marketplace and the austerity-oriented policies of the World Bank
and the IMF in their lending to developing countries. The police
are forging ahead with planning. Already, about $2.6 million has
been requested, Mr. Gainer said, for bus and van rentals for
moving officers as well as for setting up a network of fences to
keep protesters away from meeting sites and travel routes for the
thousands of delegates and staff and the 17 heads of state
expected to attend the meetings.
Mr. Gainer said the police might use waist-high bicycle-rack
fencing as well as higher fencing and barriers like those used in
There also will be areas of the city that only delegates and law
enforcement officers will be allowed access to, he said, as was
done for the inauguration of President George W. Bush in January.
Mr. Gainer said police officials expected as many as 50,000
protesters, although only a small number of them are expected to
hold violent demonstrations.