Washington IMF/World Bank Protests

Introduction

On April 16, 2000 approximately 30,000 activists converged on Washington D.C. as part of a direct action against the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank meetings occuring that weekend.

 

History and Context

Following on the perceived success of the Seattle protests in November 1999, the then fledging anti-globalization movement set its sights on the policies of the IMF/World Bank, which activists said promoted poverty in developing nations and global inequality between nations by forcing poor nations to adopt free market reforms and other neo-liberal policies in order to qualify for loans.

 

The Event

A number of activist groups and individuals were called together by the 50 years is enough network in the days following the Seattle convergence. From these initial meetings, the Mobilization for Global Justice coalition was formed. This coalition initiated a number of working groups to plan for a counter-summit to the IMF/World Bank meeting, with the stated objective being to 'shut down the IMF!' via a series of blockades and other actions in the streets around the buildings where the meetings were taking place.

A number of teach-ins and public rallies were held. On the 16th and 17th, the days scheduled for the meetings, thousands of protesters attempted a blockade of an area approximately 80 square blocks in the city centre.

 

Impact and Aftermath

Approximately 1500 people were arrested over the course of the event. Unlike the WTO summit in Seattle the previous fall, the meetings were not significantly affected, although there were reports of delays and of individual delegates being unable to attend. However, there was a significant amount of media coverage of the event (including cover stories on magazines such as Newsweek and TIME), contributing to the growing public awareness of issues surrounding globalization.

The event also served to further develop the grassroots/independent media movement. The Indymedia organization began to flourish around this time, with the number of new “IMC's” increasing apace with every new summit-style protest in a major North American city.

This protest was also notable for the significant amount of dialogue it generated between leading economic figures and activists. On April 15, during the leadup to the summit, members from the IMF debated anti-globalization activists at the Jewish Community Centre. The same week, Joseph Stiglitz (former Chief Economist for the Bank) generated controversy over a provocative article in the New Republic in which he was highly critical of monetary and administrative policy of the IMF, particularly of 'structural adjustment' and it's negative impact on democracy.

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