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News :: Globalization
Protests at IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings – a Prelude to October
17 Apr 2007
From April 13-15, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank met in Washington DC. Once again, the Mobilization for Global Justice (MGJ) and allied groups organized protests to highlight the profound injustice that these institutions visit upon the world. This time, however, the April protests wren merely a prelude to bigger, more exciting things happening in the fall.
Protests at IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings – a Prelude to October

From April 13-15, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank met in Washington DC. Once again, the Mobilization for Global Justice (MGJ) and allied groups organized protests to highlight the profound injustice that these institutions visit upon the world. This time, however, the April protests wren merely a prelude to bigger, more exciting things happening in the fall.

The Call from Nairobi

Activists gathered at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, in January called for international days of action against the IMF and World Bank in October, culminating in their fall meetings in Washington DC on October 19-21. Mark your calendars for these dates! This is our chance to demonstrate to these institutions that resistance is alive and well in the heart of the empire.

If you are local to the Washington DC area, please contact us and come to our meetings to help build something really exciting for October. If you are from out of town, make plans to come! We will be glad to host you in DC for a weekend the IMF and World Bank won’t forget.

Here’s our contact info: mgj (at) 202-898-5953

Our meetings are on Wednesdays, 7 – 9 pm. The locations have varied these days, so please contact us before you come.

Thursday 4/12 – Mocking the IMF

Scene: It’s a warm Spring afternoon. DC’s famous cherry blossoms are beginning to wither, the IMF is fraying at the edges, and Wolfowitz is just straight-up going down. We decide this is an appropriate time to kick the institutions while they’re rolling on ground, trying to figure out how to revitalize themselves.

Action: Focusing on the IMF for a change, we announce on Monday through a press advisory sent out from our very own IMF press address, that two representatives, Meg A. Banks and Max Profit, from the Strategic Public Information and News (SPIN) Department of the IMF would be announcing new tax policy recommendations for the United States:
• Institute a national sales tax, with no exemptions for food and medicine.
• Reduce maximum corporate tax to 5%.
• Abolish incentives to non-profits.
• Do not submit to popular pressure.

Arriving at Thursday lunchtime with fellow bureaucrats and opposition activists in tow, Meg A. Banks (Ruth Castel-Branco) and Max Profit (Sameer Dossani) stood in front of the IMF and performed the guerrilla theater speech, interrupted occasionally from “boos” from the activist audience.

Outcome: This was the first time that Mobilization for Global Justice really took the IMF to task. In addition to providing lunch-time entertainment from IMF staff of lunch break, and a means to get out message out to a small number of media outlets, this event was a reminder to the guards, staff and board of these institutions that we are still able to retake some space, and the institutions can still be subject to ridicule, critique and protest.

Friday 4/13 – A Visit to the Wolf’s Lair

On Friday, April 13, demonstrators erected a sign in World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz's lawn in front of 7104 Pinehurst Parkway, his home off Western Ave. The sign said, "Paul Wolfowitz steals from the poor and gives the money to his ex-girlfriend.”

This time, we didn't have to break out the air horns and yell, as the mainstream press has been doing the yelling for us. The Wolfowitz-Riza scandal has led to a torrent of nasty press coverage and at this point will probably cost Wolfie his job. With luck, this neocon bastard will STAY retired!

In addition, World Bank staffers are so outraged that they booed and hissed Wolfowitz when he tried to address them to apologize!

We have come a long way since 2000. The IMF's loan portfolio has dropped from a peak of $96 billion to around $20 billion today – half of it to one country, Turkey. Seven years ago, it took 40,000 people battling police to get close enough to the Bank to be seen – this time, Bank staffers THEMSELVES are protesting!

With the IMF and World Bank losing influence, and the Bank discredited even in mainstream circles because of the Wolfowitz scandal, we have a tremendous opportunity like never before to weaken and undermine these institutions of empire. Let’s seize the chance in October!

Saturday 4/14 – World Bank, Out of Congo!

On Saturday, April 14, about 100 people converged for a march and rally in opposition to the World Bank. The march, called for by the Friends of the Congo and members of local Congolese communities, demanded an end to World Bank-funded environmental destruction in the Congo by multinational mining corporations.

Shortly after 2 PM the march took off from McPherson Square, a few blocks from the Bank and Fund buildings, with Congolese flags, anti-World Bank and IMF banners, and a smattering of "Wolfowitz Resign" signs. Despite the presence of the calls to resign, the march was overwhelmingly in opposition to the existence of the Bank and Fund as institutions, not just reacting to the recent scandals involving Wolfowitz. Along the route, demonstrators passed out information leaflets and engaged passersby. The march was spirited and energetic, with chants and songs in Lingala, French, and English.

Upon arriving at the World Bank, the march was met by an unnecessarily large police force. Mounted police, private security guards, officers on foot, and a police truck all graced us with their presence. In the spirit of 'eradicating poverty' (they must be working with the Bank!) the US Park Police also forced a homeless man to move his belongings out of the park in front of the Bank, and threatened him with arrest if he did not comply. Perhaps Paul Wolfowitz can seek alternative employment with the US Park Police, given his recent job insecurity. He'll feel right at home!

The rally lasted for 2 hours and was complete with forceful chanting, harmonic singing, and a brief interlude of street theater with cell phones covered in fake blood to symbolize the destructive World Bank-funded mining of coltan and cobalt, minerals used in manufacturing cell phones. There were no speeches to be had here, just people expressing their collective outrage with the disastrous results of Bank-funded oppression.

Saturday 4/14 – Exposing the Loan Sharks

After the demonstration outside the Bank, the crowd walked over to George Washington University for an educational event on the common thread of illegitimacy tying together the international debt of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the domestic crisis of predatory lending. The event was planned primarily by Friends of the Congo and Mobilization for Global Justice, who were joined by 50 Years is Enough, Africa Action, Coalition of Congolese Patriots, Jubilee USA Network, Transafrica Forum, and Washington Peace Center as cosponsors.

We started with “Congo’s Tin Miners,” a documentary about the grim reality of mining in the Congo as a nexus between global corporate greed and local militarization. The documentary was followed by two speakers.

Jean-Louis Peta Ikambana of American Friends Service Committee traced the history of systematic impoverishment of the Congo from the days of Belgium’s brutal colonization, through the notoriously corrupt Western-backed dictatorship of Mobutu, to the present “civil war” which is in reality a violent resource grab. Peta established the odious nature of the foreign debt that Congo has accrued over the decades, and pointed to the culpability of the IMF and World Bank in this immoral debt.

Charles Lowery of the Center for Responsible Lending followed with a very informative talk about subprime mortgage lending, payday lending, and other forms of predatory lending in the U.S. He explained how these loans drain resources away from poor people and people of color, stifling the possibility of economic self-sufficiency of their communities. .

In the spirited discussion that followed, Ruth Castel-Branco of MGJ and 50 Years is Enough drew attention to how the IMF is promoting these same forms of predatory lending abroad through the “liberalization” of the banking industry.

The event was ultimately about broadening public awareness of how the same forces of neoliberal global capitalism are undermining people’s lives, livelihoods, and self-determination in both the Global South and the United States.

The Finale: No Sleep for the Wicked!

In an unannounced action during the night of April 14th, two dozen individuals braved the cold rain and took to the streets with makeshift soccer balls and noisemakers in hand, to send a message to World Bank and IMF delegates in town. Amidst the now infamous Wolfowitz corruption scandal and the subsequent discontent brewing within the Bank, global justice demonstrators went beyond the reformist rhetoric of those calling for the resignation of Wolfowitz and called for the closure of the Bank itself. At approximately 4AM, just hours before the start of the Sunday round of talks, the noise brigade and street soccer players marched downtown, stopping at several major hotels housing delegates.

The Marriott was the first stop. Opening the evening with air horns, whistles, pots and pans, and a game of soccer, the contingent easily woke up the delegates sleeping soundly in the hotel. Within minutes, lights turned on in various rooms and guests wandered outside in dismay. The group stayed just long enough to get cheers from passing taxi-cabs and yells from hotel guests. In attempts to keep the police at bay, the group departed the Marriott shortly thereafter and trekked on to the next hotel.

The Westin Grand and the Fairmont, conveniently situated caddy-corner from one another, were visited next. Again: noise and soccer in the streets effectively woke the delegates. The group stayed long enough to watch room lights go on, then departed back to the Marriott for a second round.

Then it was off to the St Gregory, at 21st and M NW, for a rousing wake up call for the folks inside. It was about 5am at this point and the meetings were set to begin in just over 3 hours. Most of the rooms were dark when the noise brigade arrived, but a cascade of lights turned on as the whistles and chanting penetrated the hotel walls.

The final stop brought the group to the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Avenue NW. Long viewed as the symbol of extravagant wealth in DC, and often the target of late night counter Bank and Fund demonstrations, (including in Fall 2005 and Spring 2006) the Mayflower was the shining star of the evening/morning. Banging on fences, newspaper boxes, and pots and pans, the group made their presence known. Hotel security watched from afar as the silence of the night was breached by the cacophony of resistance.

Just before dawn, the soaking wet sleep-deprived noise brigade called it a night. But we'll be back. So long as delegates keep meeting and sleeping in DC, they'll continue to be woken up in the middle of the night. Hey delegates – if you thought this was bad, wait till you see what happens in October!

World Bank, Shut it down! Delegates get out of our Town!

More audio, photo and video files will be posted later on our website –
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