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Prison Protesters Arrested in DC

In a reprise of the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization protests, thousands of activists gathered in Washington DC on April 9-17 to oppose annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the prison-industrial complex, and neoliberal economic policies.

Estimates of the number of demonstrators varied from 5,000 to 20,000 depending on who did the estimating. The total number arrested during the 8-day mobilization, a number more accurately estimated, approached 1300--more than twice the number arrested during the WTO Seattle protests.

Metro Police Chief Charles Ramsey's officers undertook preemptive strikes against potential protesters on grounds of what they might be planning to do. Such a strike occurred April 15th. International Action Center demonstrators protesting the prison-industrial complex and demanding a retrial for black activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, were marching peacefully but without a permit near the Justice Department. Ramsey's troops swept in, sealed off the area, and arrested everyone present including tourists and World Bank consultant Leon Galindo.

Most arrestees were released the following day. "I am now far more sympathetic with the demands of the protesters and just a tad more cynical about the establishment," said Galindo after his release.

April 17th, another 600 activists were arrested and joined detainees who were practicing "jail solidarity"-refusing to give their names or cooperate with authorities. Jailed protesters complained of physical abuses and threats, particularly from U.S. Marshals.

By April 22nd, the last 156 activists were released after volunteer lawyers negotiated a deal to reduce all charges to minor infractions carrying a $5 fine. The deal was struck after thousands of supporters telephoned authorities demanding the release of protesters. An e-mail message circulating among demonstrators included cell phone numbers of Chief Ramsey and other Metro Police officials.

Galindo, the World Bank consultant, wrote of abuse in jail: "To allow the police of any nation to intimidate and suppress voices through such illegal and totally stupid procedures as those used in Washington DC this weekend . . . [is to] condone what a U.S. Marshal screamed in my ear as he violently slammed me into a wall when reminded that he was violating my fundamental rights: 'Down here there is no democracy. This place is a dictatorship and I am God. If you open your mouth again I will kick your ass till you are sorry.'"

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