NYC Braces for Possible Summit Violence
- News for Anarchists & Activists:
NYC Braces for Possible Summit Violence
Wed Jan 30, 5:40 PM ET
- Groups planning protests against the World Economic Forum
that kicks off Thursday in New York say they will wear a
different face from the ones seen in violent confrontations
in the past, and police say that's fine, as long as the face
they wear is their own.
Even if the thousands of demonstrators who are expected to
come to the city to protest during the five-day summit of
some 3,000 international business leaders do not turn to
destruction of property or initiate confrontations with
police in an effort to halt the WEF meetings, they could
still find themselves in conflict with law enforcers.
At issue could be a 19th century New York City law barring
demonstrators from wearing masks. Many of the anarchist and
anti-globalization groups say their protests will come in
the form of "street theater" involving costumes and
performances to dramatize what they say are the negative
effects multinational corporations have on the world's
poorest nations and the environment.
The WEF decided in November to move its meeting from the ski
resort town of Davos, Switzerland, where it was scheduled to
be held, to New York, as a sign of solidarity with the city
in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks that
destroyed the World Trade Center.
The tone of the forum should be different, too, organizers
say, with the focus more on social issues and what business
leaders can contribute to creating a safer, more harmonious
world. Representatives of groups that are often in conflict
with multinational corporations over environmental or human
rights issues have been invited to attend, and 43 religious
leaders are expected this year, up from 17 last year.
A WEF spokesman admitted, though, that if being in New York
makes demonstrators less likely to resort to the kind of
violence that shut down a World Trade Organization meeting
in Seattle in 1999, and disrupted a WEF gathering in
Melbourne, Australia, in 2000, and a G-8 meeting in Genoa,
Italy, in 2001, because of the mood of the city, that's all
to the good.
"Frankly, our hope is to put this in more positive terms
that New Yorkers will, I think, probably not welcome
violence and disruption in the current climate and we expect
hopefully we'll have a very peaceful meeting here," WEF
spokesman Charles McLean said.
Were Going to Enforce the Law
Thousands of demonstrators are expected to converge on New
York, and the police department is mobilizing 4,000 officers
to try to maintain order in the area around the
Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Midtown Manhattan, where the
conference will be based. Several blocks around the posh
hotel will closed to vehicles, and there will be traffic
checkpoints with bomb-sniffing dogs to search vehicles.
"We're going to enforce the law," New York Police Department
Commissioner Ray Kelly said. "We hope these demonstrations
are going to go forward peacefully, but we're prepared to
enforce the law and take swift action."
The NYPD carried out training exercises for thousands of
officers at Shea Stadium, practicing mass arrests and crowd
"We know that we are in very good hands and we have seen
that the authorities certainly take the necessary measures,"
WEF founder and president Klaus Schwab said.
A Message for the Rich Folks
Leaders of various groups planning demonstrations say they
don't want violence either, all they want is to get across
their message decrying evils of globalization.
"Because of September 11, because there's a sense that no
one wants some kind of catastrophe, there's going to be
restraint and that, more than some people think, in the end,
the focus is going to be on the message," said Larry Holmes
of Act Now to Stop War and End Racism.
"Our biggest message will be to tell those rich folks who
really are the secret government of the world that people
need money for jobs and human needs, not war, and certainly
not to make them any richer," Holmes said.
If the groups opposed to the WEF are saying they want to
present a less confrontational face at this gathering, some
attendees of the conference say the focus of this year's
meetings will be more on social responsibility than it has
been in the past and those outside the swanky hotel should
"When you look at the program and you look at the content
and the context, I think people should think about how they
can work together and worry less about what sign they carry
but how do we peacefully coexist and improve the quality of
existence," WEF board member Donna Redel said.
Despite a WEF meeting that includes programs with titles
like "Bridging Divides: Necessary Next Steps," "Global
Action to Bridge Economic and Social Divides," and "Building
a Coalition for a Stable World: Who Will Share in the
Burden," and invited representatives from such organizations
as Amnesty International and Greenpeace, the group's
opponents say there is no reason to believe there has been
any substantive change in its goals.
"The WEF is a living symbol of political and business
leaders scratching each others' backs, proclaiming that
they're meeting to solve the world's problems while in
reality they're looking for ways to enrich each other,"
Another World Is Possible spokesman Eric Laursen said.
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