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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Students protest IMF policies

Student demonstrators said they intend to educate the campus and peacefully protest globalization next to thousands of protesters at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank this weekend.

Despite police concerns about possible violence associated with protests, the University will remain open for the IMF and World Bank meetings Sept. 28 and 29. Officials estimate that as many as 15,000 protesters could obstruct public transportation systems and streets in the city.

Last fall, GW acceded to a Metropolitan Police request to close campus and shut down operations in anticipation of more than 30,000 demonstrators. The meetings were called off after September 11, though classes remained canceled.

“Our goal in the actions is to get more people to understand, become involved and stay involved,” said senior Naina Dhingra, a student activist organizer. “Usually lots of students participate, even if it is just watching what happens.”

Though official estimates from the police and the university call for thousands, protest organizers said numbers of protesters could be very low. Dhingra said she expects about 500 GW students to participate in the demonstrations, both actively and as observers.

The protests draw together a diverse group of interests, united in their opposition to international lending institution practices. The demonstrators challenge The World Bank and the IMF on a variety of issues including global justice, debt relief, workers rights, environmental concerns and women’s rights.

“The diverse groups that participate in this movement represent the diverse impact that the World Bank and the IMF have,” said senior Eleiza Braun, another leading activist on campus. “These are systemic problems that exist and need to be addressed.”

Some see the diversity of the movement as an advantage.

“All of these movements have been put in the same bag,” said Aldo Caliari of the Center for Concern, an organization that works to restructure international debt. “The movement is fragmented and polarized, which in a way helps. Both the right and the left agree that the IMF and the World Bank need changing. That is a unique situation.”

Though the groups involved in the planned protests do not officially endorse violent action, past meetings in the District and around the world have seen clashes between police and demonstrators.

“It doesn’t hurt (the movement) when there is a fragmentation based on the issues,” said Dhingra, who is particularly concerned with the growing problem of AIDS in countries dealing with the IMF. “It hurts when there is fragmentation based on tactics.”

Despite the non-violent nature of the planned demonstrations, sources within protest movements said they are going to attempt to block access to public transportation, including Metro stations, and vehicular traffic on streets. Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey told WJLA-TV Wednesday that he is concerned about the danger protests pose to the city. He said protesters “could care less about the safety and security of this city or this nation.”

Protesters disagreed with Ramsey’s concerns.

“The violence that happens is police violence,” Braun said. She said public concern over protests, raised by Ramsey, has “escalated” the situation.

Caliari said the grassroots movements calling for social change have had mixed results. He said the radical elements in the movements, including anarchist groups, have drawn media attention to demonstrations, which raises awareness of issues other groups are earnestly addressing.

“There is well-grounded research for viable alternatives to these policies,” said Caliari, whose work is focused on alternatives to current lending and debt arrangements between nations and the IMF. “We are trying to show who benefits and who suffers.”

“The general population doesn’t have a good understanding of the issues involved,” said Caliari. “The movement is quite weak but successful in raising awareness. It provides a public space for discussion.”

Braun said that the movement’s success is tangible on college campuses.

“When I was a freshman things like globalization were never taught in classes,” she said. “The average student has some sort of understanding now of what the issues are. Even though there are many aspects to the problem, at least it is in the public discussion.”

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