Thousands Rally Outside World Economic Forum
by Larry Fine and Soo Youn, Reuters, 2 Feb 2002
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Thousands of raucous demonstrators rallied against globalization, war and corporate greed under a heavy police watch on Saturday in a massive protest aimed at the World Economic Forum that avoided the violence that has marred similar past meetings.
As protesters marched more than a mile through midtown Manhattan, wearing costumes, carrying signs and puppets, making music and chanting slogans before finishing near the WaldorfAstoria Hotel where the forum was being held, even the police praised their peaceful conduct.
"They've been wonderful," police spokesman Kevin Czartoryski said of the protesters.
Just seven people were arrested for disorderly conduct during the march that drew more than 5,000 people, a police spokesman said. Two others were arrested for disorderly conduct at an earlier rally outside the hotel that drew another estimated 3,000 demonstrators.
With more than 4,000 New York City police officers, U.S. Secret Service agents and private security guards braced for potential disruptions, the peaceful protests brought a sense of great relief after the violence that brought the 1999 World Trade Organization summit in Seattle to a standstill. Last year, Italian police shot and killed one demonstrator shot at the G8 Summit in Genoa.
Phalanxes of police in riot gear kept the protectors a block or more from the posh hotel where forum met, shielding the attendees at the five-day gathering of the world's business and political elite from the demonstrations outside.
The attendees included Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Japanese Economic Minister Heizo Takenaka, Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo and U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill.
A "STRICTLY LEGAL" PROTEST
David Graeber of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence anarchists group said protest leaders had decided on peaceful protests in the taut, post-Sept. 11 atmosphere in New York.
"All the organizers agreed this would be strictly legal," he told Reuters.
Accompanied by dozens of officers on motorcycles, hundreds of police on foot, and watched from above by three low-flying police helicopters, the protesters marched and danced through midtown under clear, chilly skies.
A mix of young students and older protest veterans, the crowd waved signs reading "World Exploitation Forum" and "End the War." Some carried a large burlap dragon on poles that read, "The WEF is Dragon Us Down," and a giant papier mache vulture wearing "WEF" on its breast as it perched atop planet Earth.
In a mood both festive and defiant, some protested corporate globalization strategies, while others objected to the use of low-paid labor in developing countries.
Kate Farmer, 53, a research scientist from Northampton, Massachusetts, carried a sewing machine with a sign saying: "22 cents an hour in Lesotho, Africa, sewing clothes for you."
"There are people now...being abused working in Taiwanese sweatshops in Lesotho to make clothes for the Gap, Wal-Mart and Kmart," she said.
TRAFFIC AT A STANDSTILL
Witnesses said one of those arrested was a young man who refused to remove a gray bandanna covering his mouth, and that an onlooker who questioned the arrest also was taken into custody as protesters chanted "Let them go!"
Anarchists spokesman Graeber said police used undercover officers to pick on some of the protesters at the march.
"They used snatch squads, cops who grabbed people for no reason during the march, hoping someone would resist," he said. "They are trying to create a climate of terror, of fear and general intimidation."
Earlier protests during the five-day-long forum were far smaller, with demonstrators heavily outnumbered by police, who were hailed as local heroes in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks that leveled the city's World Trade Center and killed some 3,000 people.
© 2002 Reuters
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.