BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The protest began peacefully with songs, slogans and dancing
 real 28k

News Online's Kevin Anderson in Washington
Protestors push down a construction fence
 real 28k

News Online's Kevin Anderson in Washington
Police push back protestors in Washington
 real 28k

Sunday, 16 April, 2000, 21:16 GMT 22:16 UK
Eyewitness: Batons, bouquets and barbed wire
Police and protestors face each other in a stand off
Police and protestors clashed sporadically
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in Washington

A day of protests began early in Washington, with protesters massing downtown long before first light.

I joined a group of 11 protesters with the Direct Action Network from Seattle, crammed four across in the back two seats of a station wagon taxi with the rest lying across their friends' laps.

Flower girl
Hopes for a peaceful day
They were veterans of the battle of Seattle, they said. Like the protests against the WTO there, they said that today would be historic.

One protester in the back said: "Yeah there is going to be a riot." But another quickly countered: "No, this is peaceful, non-violent."

And for most of the early morning hours, it was peaceful.

Early confrontation

There was one incident early on where motorcycle police ringed a group of protesters with their motorcycles. The protestors stood up and the police drove their cycles slowly through the crowd.

Protestors and police clash in an early standoff
An early standoff
Some of the protesters moved to stop the motorcycles - they stood illuminated by the headlamps in the pre-dawn light, but no violence erupted.

Incidents like this gave the early part of the day an atmosphere similar to that of the WTO protests in Seattle, said Jeremy Simer, with the Independent Media Centre of Seattle.

"It is strikingly similar. There were a few tense moments with the police, but there are high spirits, lots of singing and dancing," he said.

A broad coalition

The most striking thing about the protesters was their diversity of their causes.

Massed at intersections around the World Bank and IMF buildings, each crossroads seemed to have been claimed by a specific group.

A woman has 'IMF WANTS THE SHIRT OFF MY BACK' written on her back
The diverse groups had common enemies - the IMF and World Bank
One was dominated by animal groups protestors. They chanted: "Animal rights ... Human rights ... One struggle ... One fight."

There were environmentalists dressed as trees, others wearing monarch butterfly wings winding through the crowd.

A block further away, demonstrators vent their anger on the School of the Americas - a US Army training programme for members of Latin America militaries.

Protesters say the school trains its students in torture and repression.

Another group protested that the World Bank's policies worsened the Aids crisis in Africa.

The Black Block

Then there was a more sinister, anarchist grouping known as the Black Block.

Speaking to a member early in the morning, I could only see his eyes. He had the hood pulled up on a black sweatshirt, and a bandanna covered most of his face.

He had come to protest against capitalism, greed and oppression.

His goal for the day: "Shut down the bank, and send the bank, send the pigs and send the tyrants a message."

He ideal world would be one without capitalism and without hierarchy.

Pushing, shoving and clubbing

Clashes between the police and protesters were sporadic and short-lived, but the tension was rising.

Protesters with fence
Moments later the police pushed back hard
In the late morning, members of the Black Block began tearing down a construction fence a few blocks from the White House. The fence was made of chain link but had a single strand of barbed wire running along the top.

They took two sections of the fence, pushing it up the street towards the line of police. Outnumbered, the officers retreated two blocks as protesters occasionally hurled a bottle or brick.

A wall of police motorcycles momentarily stopped the advance but the protesters drove the fence into the line, knocking a few policemen off their bikes.

The police pushed back, riding their motorcycles into the crowd. Behind the motorcycles were police with batons.

"Gas, gas, gas .." the protesters shouted
"Back, back, back," the police chanted as they thrust their batons into the protestors.

Tear gas canisters bounced on the street, smoke floated over the crowd, burning eyes, noses and throats.

"Gas, gas, gas," the protesters shouted.

The crowd quickly dropped back and scattered.

After the gas cleared, a violent confrontation threatened until a wall of protesters moved in between angriest members of the crowd and the police.

In a scene from the sixties, they flashed peace signs, held up flowers and shouted out: "No Violence."

The crowd retreated and moved to the next confrontation a few blocks south, setting up a pattern that would continue throughout the day.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Americas Contents

Country profiles
See also:

16 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: Anti-IMF protests
13 Apr 00 | Business Basics
The IMF and World Bank
14 Apr 00 | Business
New challenge for G7 chiefs
13 Apr 00 | Business
The World Bank defends itself
15 Apr 00 | Business
The debate on globalisation
Links to other Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories