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29.09.2002 General News

Washington protests condemn water privitization in Ghana

By Various
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For the second day, protesters gathered in Washington to oppose the pro-privatization policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank that they say denies many in the Third World access to medical care, labor rights and in some cases, even water. A few thousand protesters carrying signs for a wide variety of causes, including the privatization of the water utility in Ghana (the sign said Ghana's water wasn't for sale), workers' rights gathered at the Sylvan Theatre in the shadow of the Washington Monument for speeches and music. About 3 p.m. the protesters marched their oversized puppets, colorful banners and drums up 15th Street. The event was peaceful until several self-proclaimed anarchists climbed atop a statute in the park and began lighting American flags on fire. This drew a strong rebuke from event organizers, who rather aggressively complained that such a move would distract from the substance of the march. His concerns were well founded as the crush of photographers from news agencies practically smothered the fire. Friday was the first day of the protests that have become a regular feature of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank by people opposed to their economic policies and capitalism. Other participants included people espousing a myriad of causes. Anti-war protesters were among those taking to the streets. In a series of arrests on Friday, hundreds of demonstrators languished in a temporary jail for as long as 24 hours, many without charges As of 3:00 pm Saturday, 134 demonstrators had been processed and jailed, according to a "lock-up list" posted in the U.S. Superior Court in Washington. Of those, 97 submitted names of Jane or John Doe when they were processed. When arraigned in front of a judge, however, many gave the court their names and plead not guilty. Those who still did not give their names were placed in jail for seven days without bond. Most of the demonstrators are being charged with failure to obey a police order, incommoding, or disorderly congregation. There were eight lawyers assigned to the 134 activists. At 3:30 pm, approximately 20 activists were released with no charged. Many of them complained that police handcuffed them for up to 18 hours yesterday and forced them to remain on over-crowded buses. Mark Andersen of Positive Force DC, an activist group with connections to many of the protesters, called the arrests illegal and an "outrageous" violation of civil rights. He said many of the detainees were held in buses for up to 18 hours, and some had their hands secured to their ankles by plastic restraints. "The protesters were meek and mild and hardly disruptive," he said. According to police spokesmen, part of the delay in processing those arrested was due to computer breakdowns and in part to the fact that many detainees would not give their real names, said Lt. Brian McAllister, one of the supervising officers of the operation. "There are a whole wreck of people who came in here as Jane and John Doe's," he said. Because of the computer problems, police had to process each detainee by hand, police said. The thousands of demonstrators predicted did not materialize Friday, and in most cases, police far outnumbered them. In one instance Friday, which supplied most of those arrested, several hundred demonstrators were surrounded by truncheon-carrying police and arrested after authorities said the activists refused to follow orders to stop blocking the street just blocks from the White House. Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey told United Press International that the arrested would be charged with failure to obey police orders and demonstrating without a permit. "There were folks in the street that were blocking the corner of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and they refused a police order to disperse," he said. "So we're holding them in the park and bringing them on to buses in an orderly manner. We told them to move, and they didn't. So we're moving them ourselves." Civil rights lawyers observing the protests in Washington said demonstrators were not given the opportunity to disperse before being taken into custody. Bystanders and reporters were among those caught up in the sweeps.

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