PROTESTERS IN WASHINGTON FAIL TO DISRUPT FINANCIAL MEETINGS

Byline: Jim Ostroff

WASHINGTON — Six thousand chanting, bongo-beating protesters decrying sweatshops, environmental degradation and economic globalization failed Sunday to disrupt international financial meetings being held here under extraordinary police protection.
Protest organizers, who orchestrated last December’s raucous demonstrations in Seattle against the World Trade Organization, nevertheless vowed to step up their activities today and prevent world finance ministers from attending a joint International Monetary Fund-World Bank meeting.
This session, set many months ago, took on an air of urgency in the wake of Friday’s U.S. stock market meltdown. As they prepared to huddle for a second day, most finance officials from the world’s seven wealthiest nations said they would await today’s U.S. stock market openings before recommending any action.
Although Sunday’s protests generally were peaceful, police skirmished with several groups of demonstrators who locked their arms in metal tubes and formed a circle around the entrance to the downtown IMF building in an attempt to prevent finance ministers from entering.
A dozen blocks away from this protest, about 200 demonstrators gathered outside a Gap store in the upscale Georgetown neighborhood, protesting the retailer’s alleged use of contractors who operate sweatshops. Several protesters who removed their clothing were detained by police and made to put on underwear, according to reports.
Police had arrested more than 600 people at press time Sunday and vowed to do whatever is necessary to prevent a repeat of the Seattle melee that saw protesters smash retail store windows and do an estimated $6 million in damage. As a precaution, police have ordered the closure today of several downtown subway stops and numerous streets, over the protests of local retailers.