Cracked Heads And Crack Troops On The Streets Of DC
Washington DC is buzzing with thousands of anti-capitalist direct activists, in town to prevent the World Bank and International Monetary Fund from cementing its plans for an economic world order. In in the first of three contemporaneous reports from the frontline, SQUALL's Si Mitchell gets into the thick of it.
15th April 2000
April 15, downtown DC. Police and fire crews give an 8.30 wake up call to 200 activists at the Florida Avenue Convergence centre, confiscating their paint, puppets and lock-on gear and hoofing them out into a drizzling dawn.
Evicting the convergence is the latest play by city authorities who are escalating their presence in light of mass protests planned for Sunday and Monday. Fifty thousand activists, unionists and anti-globalisation campaigners are expected to swamp the International Monetary Fund and World Bank's annual meeting aiming to bring the world's power centre to a standstill in the process.
"Between them, these two institutions have caused more harm to more people than any other non-military organisation in human history," David Korten told SQUALL at a meeting of the International Forum on Globalisation in Clinton's regular church on 16th Avenue. In scenes reminiscent of Seattle at the tail end of November '99, the city is beginning to fill with backpack and bongo laden youngsters coming down to exact their First Amendment rights. Actions have already gone off against sweatshop slumlords, The Gap, and culture jammers, Starbucks and around 200 masked 'Zapatistas' descended on the Mexican Embassy in DC.
Attempting to learn from their shambolic counterparts in the evergreen state (Seattle), DC police, federal spooks and law enforcement bods of every indescription are out in force, filming, logging and tailing anyone who looks like they don't work at the Pentagon. Three activists were arrested on Thursday night for driving round with a bunch of plastic piping in the 'trunk' of their car (Cops fingered them as potential lock-on merchants, but this could just be another drain on their resources). Other agitators are 'missing', presumed to be sitting staring at bright lights somewhere in the J Edgar Hoover building.
Washington DC's Police Chief said: "I can't believe the level of organisation of the mobilisation here. It is unlike anything we have seen before." Speaking to a bunch of bouncing anti capitalists outside Dupont Circle Starbuck's, Kevin Danaher from Global Exchange said: "If you reverse the first five letters of Revolution you spell lover. Let's go out there on A16 as revolutionaries and lovers and let's change the fucking planet." Every anti-global author and anarchist with a plane, train or bus ticket is in town putting out a single message: You cannot reform the world bank. From her sick bed, Susan George sent a message to the motivated: "Looking for an alternative to the World Bank is like looking for an alternative to Cancer."
"International Mother Fuckers" says the writing on the wall. Before the guns even fell silent, the real victors of World War Two had already begun a global takeover that would have given Hitler a wet dream. Meeting in Bretton Woods , New Hampshire, the elite of the planet's financiers devised a couple of institutions capable of inflicting their vision of a global economy, dominated by the richest, selected few, on the rest of the world's nations.
Not unlike the schoolyard smack dealers Tony Blair constantly shakes in our faces, the IMF and the World Bank set about a demand-creation strategy cornering southern hemisphere countries into a position where they would borrow vast sums of money for projects they neither needed or could afford.
Agreements securing these loans are made in secret between the IMF and a handful of often unelected, unaccountable government officials - who more often than not secure a tidy personal payout for accepting the loans. Samosa in Nicaragua, Suharto in Indonesia, Mobuto in Zaire, Pinochet in Chile have all lined their pockets with World Bank dollars. When Marcos was finally ousted from the Philippines the motherfucker had a cool $4 billion credit limit on his Barclaycard. The people he terrorised for generations are still struggling to repay a $5 billion IMF loan.
Once locked into this inescapable cycle of debt repayment and further Borrowing, the World Bank and the IMF oh-so-fucking kindly move in to solve the problem they've created. Indebted nations are forced to sign up to Structural adjustment packages of economic and political reforms that channel vast chunks of the country's resources into debt repayment while simultaneously jemmying open their economies to global big business. Small scale domestic production is discarded, import and export tariffs are lifted in favour of an international trade dependent systems. Unions are suppressed and massive subsidies are given to foreign companies to move in and soak up the cheap labour. Environmental, health and education protection all go out the window.
Currently, over three million people have been displaced from their homes and lands by World Bank funded projects. Forests are felled and fisheries polluted and when the bills come, the people are told their social services and wages have to be cut in order to make the repayments.
By the World Bank's and IMFs own calculations less than a third of the projects they fund are successful. The Bank's directors are more concerned with securing lucrative development contracts for the companies they are beholden to, than creating any real development.
The World Bank and IMF are not concerned with development, but with the Corporate colonisation of the southern half of this planet. "Fifteen to Twenty million people die every year because of these institutions," said Graham, an activist from Montana. "The least I can do is get my ass out on the streets and shut this thing down. So what if I get arrested and miss a day of work, at least I ain't looking down the barrel of a gun or trying to feed a family of five on fresh fucking air."
Capitals Ills - free to view online - a documentary filmed on the streets of Washington DC during the WB/IMF demonstrations, featuring Si Mitchell. (Guerillavision, 2001)
Washington DC 16-04-00 - Black Blockades In Babylon - 16-April-2000
Washington DC 17-04-00 - Knuckleheads With Nightsticks At 20th And 1st - 17-April-2000
BATTLE FOR SEATTLE 1 - report from the streets of Seattle - Dec-1999
BATTLE FOR SEATTLE 2 - 2nd report from the streets of Seattle - 06-Dec-1999