Protesters or thugs?

In what is becoming an annual sign of autumn in the nation’s capital, thousands of demonstrators are expected to converge on Washington, D.C., this week in protest of the upcoming meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Demonstrations around the World Bank and IMF meetings are nothing new and have become quite routine over the years. One problem has been that no one really understands the goals of the protests because of its fragmented leadership. Demonstrators rally during these gatherings to protest everything from exploitation of developing countries to U.S. policy toward Iraq.

The World Bank usually meets on weekends (this year it’s Sept. 28-29) to avoid causing traffic tie ups with commuters. This has resulted in weekend protests that have done little more than disrupt the flow of tourists even though many site seers enjoy gawking at the demonstrations. The protests were handled well by D.C. police the past two years and many around the capital have grown complacent to the prospect of chaos, much to the chagrin of some protest organizers who are still trying to get their “message” out.

The solution: To wage a one day holy war against the “infidels” who dare attempt to go to work on Friday to feed the evil capitalist system that is responsible for all the world’s ills.

Various groups, buoyed by a call to action from the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, hope to shut down Washington, D.C., on Friday in protest of the World Bank, the IMF and America’s role as the shining beacon of capitalism. Orders have been given for ACC sympathizers to stay home from work and school that day. But it doesn’t stop there. Protesters are hoping to clog up major thoroughfares in and out of the city including the beltway that day to deter anyone who dares disobey their demands.

That’s some strategy. If no one listens to your pleas and protests, just keep them from going on with their normal lives. And if some property gets damaged in the process, so be it.

We will see a beefed up police presence on the streets this week to deal with the protests including some officers from Prince William and Manassas. Some employers in the city are telling workers to stay home. This is even being echoed by the D.C. police because they expect, at the least, traffic congestion or violence, at the worst.

Washington, D.C., has been lucky in recent years with no major tragedies involved with these and similar protests. Critics of the World Bank and the IMF have every right to protest and Washington, D.C., offers a big stage. But the steady evolution of these protests seems to be drifting from peaceful demonstrations to violent engagements. That’s usually what happens when it appears no one is listening. One Web site even offers points for carrying out such acts as breaking out the widow of a McDonald’s or slashing the tires of a police cruiser.

While many just want to get their message across through organized protest, others are hoping to make major headlines through a confrontation with police or the general public. Unfortunately, the noble intentions of the former will ultimately be undermined by the chaotic nature of the latter.

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