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Demonstrators in Washington Protest IMF, US-Colombia Policy - 2002-04-21


About 1,000 protesters gathered outside the Washington, DC headquarters of the World Bank to demonstrate against the policies of the finance ministers meeting inside. The crowd then marched across town to join a rally against United States policies in Colombia, as a weekend of demonstrations focusing on globalization and other causes continues.

The Colombia mobilization rally on the grounds of the Washington monument brought together people supporting a variety of issues focused on Colombia - from unionists protesting the corporate policies of the Coca-Cola company, to indigenous people protesting oil exploration in their territories, to human rights activists protesting U.S. training of South American police and military.

Linda Panetta with School of the Americas Watch - a group campaigning to shut down the training facility at Fort Benning, Georgia, now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. She says the United State's Plan Colombia will not help the cause of peace and prosperity for Colombia's people. "Colombia does not need any more weapons," she said. "What they need is support for social justice programs, for sustainable agriculture programs, for policies that support peace in the country, not to continue this war that's been waging over three decades."

Ms. Panetta says their marchers will be on the streets of Washington and on the steps of the U.S. capitol building Monday to tell government officials that funding for the Colombian military must end.

The chief of the U.S. Park Police, Theresa Chambers, says they see the two days of demonstrations tied to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings as having been very successful in that protesters got their message out using their constitutional right to free speech and without resorting to violence.

Chief Chambers said, "We value the first amendment rights that are afforded to us as American citizens and our role as United States Park Police officers so often here on the National Mall is first of all to make certain folks are permitted so that we know who is coming and now we can protect their area and let them have a safe and enjoyable afternoon or morning or whatever time of day that it is and I believe we've done that."

Chief Chambers says she hopes the protesters understand that it is not in their interest to be too confrontational as their demonstrations continue.

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