New England Brings the Noise to the IMF and World Bank

By the New England Clusterfuck

From April 24-26, hundreds gathered in Washington, D.C. to demonstrate against and disrupt the bi-annual meeting of self-described world financial leaders. Every spring and fall the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meet with delegates from all over the world, but primarily from the wealthiest, most powerful nations and corporations. The G20, the 20 wealthiest nations in the world, recently approved giving the IMF over $1 trillion to lend to other nations in the name of global capitalism. For almost a decade, anarchists, labor advocates, environmentalists and others seeking global justice have been protesting these meetings, working to prevent delegates from getting to the IMF headquarters to devise policies that result in worldwide economic and ecological devastation.

Who Are the IMF and World Bank?

Over the past 60 years, the IMF and World Bank have been waging a war against impoverished communities worldwide. They execute these attacks through Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), which force governments to cut public services such as utilities, education and healthcare. SAPs encourage privatization, putting vital operations into the hands of unaccountable, profit-driven multinational corporations and away from local control.

As an example, the impositions of the IMF and World Bank eventually caused the collapse of Argentina's economy in 2001, leaving the Argentinean people with nothing but a spirit of resistance as banks took all of the country's money out in armored vehicles.

April Uprising, 2009

Plans had been underway for months before the April meeting of the IMF and World Bank. The fairly elaborate agenda of events for the weekend included a 5K "Run on the Bank" and a walking tour of downtown D.C. on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, blockades, multiple marches -- with and without permits -- and a People's Economic Forum (with a panel discussion featuring Boston's James Herod) explained the world financial crisis and presented alternatives to the destructive capitalist model. Autonomous actions throughout the weekend were also encouraged.

After folks became more familiar with the city, autonomous actions began. In the early morning hours of Sat. April 25, a small group redecorated PNC and Wachovia bank branches with paint, smashed ten windows, caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage and closed the branches for at least three days. While self-described journalists and cops had a hard time making the connection, both of these banks, like the IMF and WB, are complicit in the financial crisis sweeping this nation and the globe. Their policies punish the poor, and these banks are responsible for evicting hundreds of families from their homes. Both of the banks received federal bailout money and continue their anti-poor policies. In October 2008, within hours of receiving $7.7 billion in federal bailout money, PNC acquired National City Corporation for $5.58 billion. It is obvious that this was a premeditated move by PNC; knowing they would be in receipt of federal money, they decided to expand instead of using that money to help keep people in their homes or funding community enrichment projects.

Later Saturday morning, multiple marches against the IMF snaked around the streets of D.C., working to prevent the delegates from reaching IMF headquarters. One march was aerobics-themed and others were explicitly anti-capitalist. When the anti-capitalist marches met up with the spandex march, they left the sidewalks and took the streets, followed by increased police attention. The march was effective in using reinforced banners to hold space on the street as well as prevent the police from forcing people back onto the sidewalks. The march chose a route that brought it to three checkpoints around the IMF that were used to smuggle in delegates.

As the march approached each of these checkpoints, police had to shut them down and re-route self-described world financial leaders elsewhere. Anti-capitalists managed to shut down two of the checkpoints. As they approached the third in the front of IMF headquarters, police attacked. The march had almost pushed through a line of police when a reinforced banner snapped, shooting bamboo into the faces of police. An intense shoving match ensued. Protesters faced off against police, who were attacking with batons, grabbing, jostling and head-butting demonstrators with their helmets. Protesters were eventually pushed toward the sidewalk and into a metal fence surrounding Murrow Park. The cops kept pushing, and there was no room left to move; those who fell were trampled.

A federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent deployed a mixture of teargas and pepper spray while other police used standard issue pepper spray. This was the first use of chemical weapons at a protest in D.C. since Bush's inauguration in 2005. One protester, sprayed at point-blank range, required hospitalization, as did her partner, who suffered a severe leg injury. Street medics treated over a dozen people for exposure to chemical weapons. Police sustained injuries as well; one was sent to the hospital for facial injuries from bamboo, another from being sprayed by the ICE agent. In the end, the IMF/WB meeting was delayed for over two hours, the same amount of time the militant march had been in the streets.

On Saturday night, after the People's Economic Forum, a soccer bloc took to the streets and ended up in Georgetown -- the wealthy commercial area of the city where delegates schmoozed in swanky hotels. Police came down hard, detaining most of the participants, arresting two and doing a slow release with the rest. Police accused 21 medics of "hiding behind the cross" -- that is, pretending to be medics while actually participating the in the action. Sunday afternoon saw an uneventful, permitted march of 150 people, ending at a rally with a speak-out.

Final Thoughts

Saturday's successes can be attributed in part to autonomous actions across the city throughout the morning. Despite the rapid failure of the publicized blockade strategy, there were enough independent backup plans that the IMF/WB meeting was still delayed for two full hours. The organizing groups, Global Justice Action and the Self-Described Anarchist Collective, provided activists with logistics, legal and housing support, but it was up to affinity groups to organize actions.

Aside from the blockades, multiple marches and the PNC/Wachovia bank actions, other actions were reported against the International Finance Corporation -- a branch of the World Bank -- and other culpable targets. Together, these actions dispersed police response across the city and provided cover for each other. A small turnout was able to accomplish much despite obstacles, mistakes and repression -- and to delay the meeting!

Though the meetings were not shut down, resistance was shown in the streets against not only the IMF, but also global capitalism. People are linking the international banking syndicate to the domestic banking criminals, as evidenced by attacks on banks and other targets. More and more people are realizing the power within themselves as they push through police lines to stay in the streets.

When Capital is Global, So Must Be Our Resistance

Are you angry yet? The New England Clusterfuck calls this IMF/WB summit a successful beginning. We are part of the resurgence of the anti-globalization, anti-capitalist movement. Thanks to the resistance of people in the Global South and oppressed people in our own country, the global financial system is faltering. We know these systems aren't sustainable, but with an armory of state, corporate and martial power to back it, capitalism has proven durable and flexible. We must join together to ensure that our dreams of community-controlled, ecologically-sound economics are realized.

Resistance begins at home. As the anti-globalization movement has died down over the past decade, anarchists have turned toward creating infrastructure in our communities that can support ourselves long term, financially, emotionally and logistically. Housing and workers' collectives, infoshops and Indymedia centers, gardens, autonomous spaces and mental health support are examples of what we wish to create, as well as supportive structures for a bigger and more effective movement. It's time to put these resources to use. The G20 summit is coming to Pitsburgh this September. We're preparing now by organizing medic trainings, networking with activists along the East Coast and meeting with friends for play-dates to build trust and teamwork.

What are you doing?

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