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D.C. Diary 

Downs and ups of a protest

Wednesday, Apr 19 2000
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Page 2 of 6

Back at the Convergence, the news has spread that seven people were stopped the night before by D.C. police and FBI agents. Their van was searched, and its contents — over 200 lengths of PVC pipe, two rolls of chicken wire, duct tape, chains and tools — were confiscated. The seven were charged with “possession of implements of a crime” and conspiracy to commit a crime, before being released. Police claim the materials were meant to be used for the construction of “sleeping dragons,” through which protesters can lock themselves to one another or to stationary objects to block streets.

A wiry Oakland-based anarchist named Tristan, who works security at the Convergence, reports that police tried to enter the center the previous night, but were turned away. Rumors — which the D.C. Metropolitan Police will not confirm or deny — are flying that the cops plan to arrest anyone covering their face with a bandanna or mask. Several blocks around the World Bank building have been closed to traffic. By afternoon, the downtown area is flooded with law enforcement, and Karen Jo Koonan, president of the National Lawyers Guild, has sent a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno protesting “serious violations of the constitutional rights of political activists.”

Friday, April 14

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While the Foggy Bottom district, where the World Bank and IMF headquarters are located, is increasingly militarized by local and federal law enforcement, back at the Convergence, the kids are doing their part to keep things peaceful. The turnout at the protest headquarters is so high that many workshops have been moved to nearby churches and community centers. A nonviolence-training session led by Starhawk, a renowned witch from San Francisco, fills one room upstairs. As C-SPAN cameras look on, about 75 people, all but a handful under 30 and a few clearly under 16, engage in role-playing, dialogue and what Starhawk calls “active listening” to prepare for Sunday’s rallies. The air in the windowless room is thick with idealistic enthusiasm. Starhawk asks the group, “What’s your intention in being here? What do you really want to see accomplished?”

Some answers: “I really want to see people care about each other”; “I want to see an end to corporate rule”; “I want to see us create a space within the movement that sketches out the kind of society we want to create”; and, to general applause, “I want to be taken seriously in living rooms across the world.”

Meanwhile, tensions with police continue to rise. Two PETA activists are arrested after unloading a dump truck of manure in front of the World Bank building; one protester is arrested following a confrontation with police at a rush-hour puppet show and rally in Dupont Circle; three more are booked and charged once again with “possession of implements of a crime,” after an evening police raid on the house in which they are staying turns up over 100 so-called sleeping dragons.

Saturday, April 15

The police don’t waste any time. By 8:45 a.m., the Convergence has been ä forcibly closed, and no one is allowed within a block of the building. A line of stone-faced cops, many with badges concealed and one with his badge number conspicuously cut out, has formed at the corner, and angry activists are chanting, “This is what a police state looks like!”

Devin Asch recalls the raid: At about 8:15, he and a couple of hundred others had gathered at the Convergence for breakfast. “First the fire marshal came in, and we let him in because he doesn’t need a warrant, but he was followed by eight or nine police in plainclothes. The crowd was asking to see a warrant, and they basically pushed their way in . . . then about two or three dozen more came in uniform in files of two, and they started shoving people out.”

Near where Asch is recounting events, a few activists begin to chant the Fourth Amendment on the other side of the police line. Executive Assistant Chief Terry Gainer tells reporters that “the building will be closed because of serious fire-code violations,” including blocked exits and stairways, a jerry-rigged electrical system, and the use of propane tanks in the kitchen. He also saw, “with my own eyes,” he insists, one Molotov cocktail, an assertion met with outrage and ridicule by protesters. Local TV news crews will nonetheless broadcast the claim widely within an hour. Gainer denies the raid had anything to do with tomorrow’s planned protests. “It was really a hazard to the young people who were in there.”

Asch shakes his head in disbelief, gesturing to the line of cops a few feet away: “This is disrupting a nonviolence training. We were just about to start one.”

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