District Expects Traffic Problems, Street Closings from Array of Protests
by Sylvia Moreno,
District workers began clearing the streets of
mailboxes and garbage cans yesterday in preparation
for a weekend of political protests, and police
suggested that residents avoid downtown Washington
today and use Metro the next few days.
In last-minute negotiations, D.C. police amended
permits yesterday for the Mobilization for Global
Justice, granting it parade routes tomorrow and Sunday
that allow protesters to stop in front of several
corporate offices where they plan to perform
Among the first events of the weekend and the
reason police suggested commuters avoid driving today
is a Critical Mass bicycle ride scheduled for 5 p.m.
Bikers plan to assemble at Upper Senate Park for a
vigil and rally to urge the closing of the successor
to the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga.
Activists say the Army school -- closed in 2000 and
replaced in 2001 with a new facility and a new
curriculum -- is a training ground for Latin American
dictators and assassins. Organizers, who are not
divulging their route, said they expect as many as 100
cyclists on downtown streets.
Four marches, which police say will cause street
closures, are planned tomorrow. Other events --
marches, teach-ins, rallies and concerts -- throughout
the weekend will support Palestinians, protest the
Bush administration's war on terrorism, denounce
racism and oppose the policies of the International
Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among other
"There are no planned marches [today], but that
doesn't mean something won't happen," said Sgt. Joe
Gentile, a D.C. police spokesman. "So if you don't
have to drive into that area of the IMF and World Bank
and you can use Metro, do so. Then we're telling
people that on Saturday and Sunday, we will have
streets closed off."
The list of street closings should be released
today, Gentile said.
The D.C. Department of Public Works -- along with
federal agencies, police and private businesses --
began removing newspaper boxes, mailboxes, litter
cans, ash urns, benches, bike racks and outdoor tables
and chairs yesterday afternoon. That is what
Department of Public Works spokeswoman Mary Myers said
officials call sanitizing the protest area, which
extends from Foggy Bottom and George Washington
University southeast to the U.S. Capitol.
"We do this at the behest of the Metropolitan
Police Department or the Secret Service," Myers said.
"It simply clears the landscape of anything that could
be used in a dangerous fashion."
Public Works inspectors also visited construction
sites in protest areas this week "to advise those
companies to secure their areas and to secure any
loose debris," Myers said.
Police initially denied the march routes requested
by the Mobilization for Global Justice. Those routes
would pass the offices of Coca-Cola Co., Citibank and
Monsanto Co. tomorrow and Occidental International
Corp. on Sunday. D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey
said that because of the concurrent protests, there
weren't enough officers to accompany the group on its
requested march routes.
But police and organizers met again yesterday, and
the permits were amended, Gentile said.
A Mobilization organizer, Adam Eidinger, said:
"We've proven now . . . that this organization is not
organizing a violent demonstration. We're just having
a march and a rally."