While G-7 finance ministers are meeting Saturday in Washington D.C., at least 1,000 anti-World Bank and IMF protesters are in a park across from the building hoping to get their word across.
The warm weather put the crowd in a festive mood, but their anger was palpable as they gathered to express their opinion on the policy of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
A nine-meter tall Earth balloon with a "for sale" sign pasted on it hovered above the crowd which ranged from toddlers to seniors in wheelchairs. Some marchers wore President George Bush masks. Others dressed as skeletons. Nearly all the demonstrators share the belief that the World Bank and IMF keep developing countries deep in debt.
"They're exploiting all the indigenous populations, they're raping the earth, they're funding projects that are totally against the environment and it's the indigenous people and the most vulnerable people and most vulnerable species are the ones that are getting the short end of the stick," says one protester.
"We've got a five-year-old here and we want a world that isn't dominated by institutions that put profits over people," says another protester. "We want a world where kids everywhere can go to school, get clean water, get health care without the World Bank pushing up prices."
A demonstrator from India's Tamil Nadu state says 100,000 people are losing their homes because of a World Bank funded dam project on the Narmada River. "They're all going to lose their homes, their ancestral lands and the right to fish and hunt on lands where they lived for thousands of years," he said. "And there is no land available to compensate them, even though the World Bank guidelines say you have to have land-for-land compensation."
Many marchers demanded the World Bank cancel the debt owed by many developing nations.
Njoki Njehu is from Kenya. She stresses her country is struggling to get out from under a huge foreign debt. "Policies that affect the Kenyan people are made here in Washington DC, behind closed doors without the knowledge and consent of the Kenyan people," she says. "Yes, the finance minister might know, the central bank may know but the Kenyan people do not know."
On the sidelines of the march, one man held a sign urging people to back the U.S.-led war on terrorism. "It just seems like this is a protest just to protest without any real purpose behind it. I'm a liberal and I support the war against terrorism, but I do not think this is the way to get help for the poor," he says.
Later, a pro-Palestinian demonstrators joined the World Bank protesters in a march to Capitol Hill. Police report no arrests and no injuries as the demonstrators converged.