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Hippies, socialists descend on D.C. for IMF protests

WASHINGTON-They hastily piled rusty wheelbarrows, planks of plywood and anything else they could find to block the intersection between D.C.'s New York Avenue and 14th Street Sunday, tying the makeshift barricade together with thin pieces of twine.

Some pounded on five-gallon oil drums while women, scantily clad with faces painted brightly, chanted various anti-International Monetary Fund slogans.

With all the coffee shops and clothing stores on the street shut down early, the heart of downtown D.C., it seemed, was under cardiac arrest.

A woman, clad in a pair of dirty white overalls, the front emblazoned with the blood-red, roughly painted slogan "No IMF," flicked off the incessantly humming helicopter overhead; two other women, topless, covered their nipples with anti-IMF stickers and stared at the helicopter ponderously.

The protests in Washington D.C. drew a group of over 14,000 people. The protesters spoke out against the World Bank's policy of loaning money to impoverished nations that have few means to pay back the Bank, creating, in their view, a vicious cycle of debt.

The World Bank loans nearly $30 billion annually to countries for development assistance, including revamping their economic systems. The IMF provides member countries with funds to overcome short-term payment difficulties.

The protests attracted people of nearly every lifestyle and economic background. Each had his own motive for being there, his own unique story to tell.

"Excuse me, would you mind taking a picture of me and my girl?" asked a young man exhibiting both the excitement and innocence of a tourist visiting the city for the first time. They posed under an anti-IMF sign.

The man, a member of the Rain Forest Action Network, was Matt Hoey, hailing from Cambridge, Massachusetts. About 200 people from his organization came to the protests.

But Saturday night, police raided their makeshift outdoor shelter.

"They used health inspectors to get a warrant and confiscated all our belongings. We didn't even have blankets to sleep on," Hoey said.

He said he believed the media had inaccurately portrayed the protesters.

"They make us look like anarchists. If I were some leftist anarchist kid, I'd be at home eating Doritos and watching TV," he added.

As the protest continued down 18th Street, a man and his boyfriend held up a fluorescent sign with the symbol for anarchy - an encircled "A".

A man who called himself Joe Hill, and his boyfriend, who drove up to DC from Miami. They both said they were vehemently opposed to both globalization and the law. The two men came to the protest independently, without the backing of a larger organization.

Neither of the two men would give his real name to The Cavalier Daily for fear of being discovered by the FBI.

Later in the procession, a former University of New Mexico student who spoke in a thick, articulate Egyptian accent, marched with his anti-IMF organization, the Awakened Monkeys.

"We have many problems ecologically" caused by the IMF, "Artist" said.

The members of Awakening Monkeys had code names to protect themselves from government organizations. He was "Artist," because of the politically-oriented graffiti he painted on the streets of Albuquerque, N.M..

His 30-member vegetarian, pacifist organization views the World Bank as a proponent for corruption in society.

"I can't buy a f--g tomato in the grocery store because it might have human DNA in it," "Artist" said.

As the protesters neared their final destination - the Ellipse of grass not more than a two-minute jog from the front porch of the White House - rumors circulated that police were taking things out of hand.

"Some serious s-'s been going on here, man," said April, a mother of two from Alexandria, Va. She wrote her home phone number and address on her arm, saying she was prepared for anything, even death.

The George Washington University campus was on the way to the Ellipse.

The residents of a former GW fraternity house on 21st Street, exasperated with the protesters' incessant chants, blasted gangsta rap music in front of the house.

"They've had this f--g cheerleading squad out there since 6:00 this morning," senior Mike Beckerman said.

"We are suffering animal death," one group of protesters chanted outside the house.

Beckerman yelled back, "We are having a barbecue!"

At this point, an acrid smell permeated the city. The police had already begun shooting tear gas.

A few protesters had their own gas masks but others improvised.

A sophomore from Penn State explained that inhaling through a vinegar-soaked rag helps protect against tear gas.

"It's the poor people's gas mask," the sophomore said.

By 3 p.m., 14th Street was again bustling with traffic, and the protesters were all either returning home or gathering at the Ellipse.

Despite a few skirmishes, the protests were peaceful.

The police were no longer clad in riot gear. They directed traffic into and out of the once-again thriving D.C.


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