AFP (with additional material by AP and BBC). 2 February 2002. Thousands march against globalization.
NEW YORK -- The "Radical Rockettes" sang against the World Economic Forum. A man sported a shark hat as a symbol of corporate greed. Some chanted against racism. Others supported the Palestinians. For the first time since the forum opened, protesters turned out in large numbers Saturday to shout for their causes and criticize the international business and government leaders meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. "Stop the capitalist oil spill," read one hand-painted sign. "We are all Palestinians," said a neon orange sticker worn by many protesters. "KKK in the White House," announced another sign. Other demonstrators complained about U.S. Navy bombing practice in Puerto Rico, military intervention in Somalia and racial profiling. Protesters and police engaged in a couple of brief shoving matches, but there was none of the serious violence that has marred protests at recent gatherings of international leaders in other cities. Nearly all the demonstrators had left the hotel area a few hours after sundown. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said 36 people were arrested during the day. Officers detained 27 protesters outside the Plaza hotel near Central Park for unlawful assembly or disorderly conduct, Kelly said. He said "specific information" had been received that the demonstrators, all carrying either wooden shields or masks, planned to attack police. Nine other people were arrested at three different locations, including four after a scuffle with officers on Lexington Avenue, Kelly said. Three police officers suffered minor injuries during the day, he said. With hundreds of police in riot gear watching, demonstrators marched 1 1/2 miles to the hotel early in the afternoon, causing traffic jams. Anthony Flynn showed up at Columbus Circle dressed in suit and tie for his protest against the forum, an annual meeting of business elite. "This is a cocktail party for the rich," the 18-year-old said. "So we're here for the cocktail party." After two days of rain, protesters ranging from teens to senior citizens were out in temperatures in the mid-30s and winds gusting to 20 mph. The marchers included the "Radical Rockettes," a group of women in Statue of Liberty costumes. Using the tune of "New York, New York," they sang, "If they can WEF us here, they'll WEF us anywhere." Pete Myers, a social worker from Ithaca, N.Y., wore a shark hat - complete with two menacing rows of teeth - as a symbol of corporate greed. "The idea is that the U.S. is being taken over by corporate interests," he said. "It's not a democracy. There's a few people making decisions for the rest of the world." Protests began Saturday with an anti-war demonstration of some 2,000 people. Saturday's first large-scale protest, organised by a group called Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, saw several thousand demonstrators carrying placards calling for the US to end funding to Israel, not to broaden anti-terror action to Somalia, and to "Let Iraq live." Later they were joined by a march of several thousand that began from Central Park and wound its way through the streets of midtown Manhattan to within blocks of the Waldorf-Astoria. Fifth Avenue shoppers dressed in designer fashions and fur were perplexed and slightly put out as they tried to navigate a route through the curb-to-curb carnival. The colourful demonstrations of dissent included an anarchist cheerleading group. Their homemade sweatshirts called for "Pom poms not bomb bombs." Many of the protesters carried messages critical of the war on terror. Not only did they call on the US not to broaden its military campaign to Iraq and Somalia, but they also questioned domestic initiatives such as anti-terrorism laws passed in the wake of the attacks last autumn. Protesters also responded to criticism that somehow protest was inappropriate as the nation and New York City recovered from 11 September. One protester carried a placard which read: "I'm a patriot and I dissent." "I feel happy and overwhelmed," said an elated Kate Cooper, an activist with the movement Another World Is Possible. "It was a beautiful, creative, joyful expression of our message that the world needs true democracy." Said student Schmeel Balto, 22: "We are out here protesting the World Economic Forum, which is a group of the richest individuals on Earth making decisions for the rest of the planet. "The decisions don't benefit the six billion people that live on this planet, they do not benefit the plants, the animals, the Earth or the culture; they only benefit the rich." In addition to the environmental and labour messages common to anti-globalisation protests, the Enron scandal was emblematic for many of the protesters of the dangers of corporate influence. Ironically shaking the tin, one protester begged for spare change for the bankrupt energy company. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Barry Stoller http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ProletarianNews featuring amazing photo attachment to this story