Protesters for diverse causes join forces for day of demonstrations

Posted: Sunday, April 21, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Marching with puppets and placards and armed with many messages, tens of thousands of protesters joined forces on a warm spring Saturday to demonstrate peacefully against everything from U.S. policy in the Mideast to globalization and corporate greed.

Protesters massed at sites across the city, then swarmed down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol, in an eclectic crowd that mixed young communists, Black Panthers and ''Raging Grannies.'' People came in busloads from around the country to show there are vibrant opposition views in the United States.

''I think the movement is beginning to wake up,'' said 80-year-old Valerie Mullen of Vershire, Vt., part of the ''grannies'' group. She said she came to protest ''any war.''

Six-year-old Kira Appleman of Silver Spring, Md., came with her mom and held aloft a sign that said, ''Palestinian children have rights, too.'' Palestinian flags proliferated as demonstrators marched through downtown.

The various groups converged for a concluding rally near the Capitol and support for the Palestinians' cause was the main theme of the day. Authorities do not provide official crowd figures for demonstrations in Washington, but Police Chief Charles Ramsey gave a rough estimate of 35,000 to 50,000.

With helicopters hovering overhead, police with wooden batons and their riot gear close by kept watch around the city, standing shoulder to shoulder along the marchers' route. A brief rain shower sent some demonstrators ducking for cover but most continued their march.

''It's been very peaceful, very orderly, just the way it's supposed to be,'' said Assistant Police Chief Terrance Gainer.

While no demonstrators were arrested during the day's events, afterward 25 protesters were arrested for unlawfully entering an underground parking garage and using it as a sleeping area for the weekend demonstrations, said police spokesperson Quintin Peterson.

More protests were planned for the next two days, and Ramsey said police were ''going to have our hands full'' on Monday, when several unauthorized rallies were expected during morning rush hour.

In San Francisco, as many as 14,000 people marched through the city's streets protesting war, racism and poverty, police said. Marchers were predominantly pro-Palestinian, and carried placards, flags and stretchers to represent Palestinians wounded or killed in the Mideast.

The daylong rally culminated with activists marching to Civic Center Plaza, snarling traffic and packing downtown streets in what police say was one of the largest peace rallies in years.

In Seattle, a rally to protest similar issues drew several hundred people. Police stopped a small crowd that broke away from the permit area, and 12 protesters were arrested on charges including property damage.

The White House had a front-row seat for a number of the protests Saturday, but President Bush missed the scene. He was spending the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

It was the spring meeting of world financial powers at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund that attracted the protesters to Washington, but anti-globalization forces did not seem to mind sharing the stage with many other causes.

The various protests are ''all connected in the sense that it's all part of how the world economic structure works,'' said 24-year-old Brad Duncan of Detroit.

At the financial institutions' spring meeting two years ago, police made 1,300 arrests during the week.

This time, one of the biggest groups sought to show solidarity with the Palestinians and protest U.S. policy that demonstrators said was tilted toward Israel.

Protesters marched with two open wooden coffins bearing young sisters of Palestinian descent. When 7-year-old Philastine Mustafa was overcome by the heat, a young boy quickly took her place.

''My people back home her age are being killed,'' said Anwar Mustafa, 33, of Philadelphia, the father of the girls. ''Me and my daughters can spend a little time in the heat to show people who don't know.''

In a counterdemonstration, a few hundred people gathered on the mall to show their support of U.S. policies. Some carried signs that said ''Peace through superior fire power.''

Outside the barricaded buildings of the IMF and World Bank, where world financial powers were meeting, a 30-foot-tall inflated Earth bearing a ''For Sale'' sign and the Citibank logo was erected.

''It's becoming a global doomsday economy,'' said 22-year-old Rob Fish of New Jersey.

Not all the groups were in perfect agreement. When Black Panthers chanting ''jihad'' and ''holy war'' hoisted a Palestinian flag next to a picture of Osama bin Laden, a Palestinian activist urged them to take the flag down.



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