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Anti-WEF Groups Protest in New York - 2002-01-31

The World Economic Forum has opened without incident in New York City. But environmental, religious, human rights, and labor groups are issuing a challenge to world business leaders.

At a news conference of anti-globalization groups just around the corner from the World Economic Forum in New York, the message was unambiguous.

Placards and banners lined up against the back wall read: "WEF equals less justice, more sweatshops," "WEF equals the poor get poorer, the rich get richer," and "WEF equals a trashed planet."

Friends of the Earth International chairman Brent Blackwelder called for a new era of "corporate accountability". "Corporations need to see that they cannot simply continue business as usual," he said. "Because every single resource on this earth is being treated as if it were a business in a liquidation sale."

These are the same seeds that bore the so-called "Battle in Seattle," a series of violent protests at the 1999 World Trade Organization Summit.

Therefore the massive police presence in New York is not at all surprising, especially after the September 11 terrorist attacks. But according to Michael Dolan of Public Citizens Global Tradewatch, one of the organizers of the protests in Seattle, this year will be different.

"I think it is going to be fine," said Mr. Dolan. "I will be out in the streets in my personal capacity as a protester to protest the World Economic Forum for the reasons that I am suggesting. But I completely expect the mobilizations and the demonstrations to be peaceful."

With the exception of a few minor incidents quite a distance away from the forum, it has been a peaceful affair. And nothing could be more serene than the scene outside the World Economic Forum on opening day: 200 members of the Falun Gong movement, each wearing a yellow scarf, did yoga-like exercises to dreamy music in a cool, misty rain.

The forum ends February 5, taking a break only for the Super Bowl on Sunday.