There is no FREEDOM in USA
Demonstration Skirmishes Continue in the District
Police charge into the crowd of penned protestors to make selective arrest at Vermont and K Sreets, NW. (Craig Cola - For washingtonpost.com)
By Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 27, 2002; 1:03 PM
Anti-capitalism protesters hoping to shut down Washington this morning staged scattered demonstrations in a downtown abandoned by much of the city's workforce and populated with a large police presence.
Some of the demonstrations, which have been timed to correspond to the weekend of annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, resulted in minor property damage and clashes with a police force that surrounded – and significantly outnumbered – the activists.
More than 300 had been arrested by mid-morning, and several bus-loads of people had been taken away. One minor injury was reported.
The protesters' stated goal of significant rush-hour traffic snarls didn't materialize, in part because traffic in and around the city was lighter than normal. Police had said they were concerned about these protests, that they expected 20,000 protesters during the weekend and had urged commuters to ride Metro trains instead of driving today. On Metro, though, ridership statistics suggested that many who work in the District's federal core simply opted to stay home.
At the Federal Triangle Metro station, about 4,430 passengers exited by 8:30 a.m. By that time on an average Friday, about 7,500 passengers emerge from that station.
After a scattered number of incidents, including tires on fire, a suspicious device in a road, the day's first mass detentions came about 7 a.m., when 21 were arrested for lying in the road at 14th Street and Independence Avenue, near the bridge. Nearly an hour later, about 300 protesters who had gathered in Franklin Square marched to K Street and Vermont Avenue, where they were surrounded and stopped by police officers in riot gear. Two members of an anarchist group, wearing black bandannas across their faces, threw rocks at a Citibank building, breaking the windows. About 40 people were coralled and put on Metro buses and taken to a cellblock at D.C. Superior Court or the police academy in Southwest Washington.
One 19-year-old protester was hit with a baton and suffered a bloodied nose. She was treated at George Washington Hospital and released.
A bicycle ride intended to disrupt traffic began about 30 minutes late, at 8 a.m. at Union Station, but attracted 75 activists and just as many police on bicycles, on motorcycles and in cars. The riders proceeded through downtown for little more than hour without incident. The procession was stopped by police at Pershing Park, near 15th Street and Pennsylvania Ave., where a couple hundred fellow activists had gathered.
Police on foot, bicycle and horseback formed a tight perimeter around the protesters at Pershing Park and Freedom Plaza, not allowing activists to leave the areas. Activists and bystanders caught inside the perimeter complained of the detainment and suggested police were overreacting to the threat.
Joseph Mayer, 69, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who lives in Alexandria and works in the District, approached the police line at the corner of 15th and Pennsylvania and was among those caught inside the line of officers.
"They closed Freedom Plaza and turned it into a non-Freedom Plaza," he said. "They have turned the Constitution off."
Overall, traffic in the area appeared to run well during the day.
Main arteries from Maryland into the District, including the Capitol Beltway, were unusually light during the rush hour, with few delays reported, authorities said.
Various patches of roadwork slowed some of the traffic on the Beltway, between College Park and the American Legion Bridge, but no major accidents or demonstrations slowed the morning commute.
Maryland State Police troopers and county police agencies braced themselves for interruptions and slowdowns on the most heavily traveled roads, and said they were pleasantly surprised that nothing materialized. They said they are likewise ready for for the afternoon traffic.
Virginia State Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said none of the early protests spilled into Virginia and that the morning commute was light.
Troopers were stationed at each of the bridges connecting the District and Virginia and officers who would normally end their midnight shift at 6 a.m. stayed several hours later to assure that the rush hour flowed smoothly, Caldwell said.
Metro official reported that ridership was light too. By 9 a.m., 184,200 passengers boarded trains. By the same time last Friday, the ridership was 191,300. Of Metro's terminal stations, only Branch Avenue and Franconia-Springfield saw an increase in ridership, said Jim Gallagher, Metro's deputy general manager for operations.
"From the passenger's perspective, it was a normal day," Gallagher said, adding that train operations ran smoothly. No stations were particularly crowded, and Metro officials did not extend rush hour service past 9 a.m.
© 2002 The Washington Post Comp
DAVID NALBANDIAN - GUILLERMO CAÑAS
JUAN IGNACIO CHELA - GUILLERMO CORIA
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JOSE ACASUSO - AGUSTIN CALLERI
MARIANO ZABALETA - MARTIN GARCIA
DIEGO HARTFIELD - JUAN MONACO
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SERGIO ROITMAN - MARTIN VASALLO ARGUELLO