The demo that fizzled

Good policing: Anti-IMF, World Bank protests were more peaceful than organizers intended.

April 19, 2000

THE WORLD got a look over the weekend at U.S. policing that was about as good as it can get.

Credit goes to Washington Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey and cooperating agencies for balancing firmness with restraint. The negotiated arrest Monday of 400 demonstrators was a masterpiece of street theater.

The demonstrators failed to halt the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings. They did temporarily shut down George Washington University, the power company and other institutions with which they had no quarrel. In military jargon, that was collateral damage.

The meetings did cover a great deal about the agendas of the demonstrators. They addressed Third World poverty, the environment and AIDS in Africa. Don't credit the demonstrators. Those issues are on everyone's agenda.

The IMF has some functions of a world central bank in maintaining stability of world currencies. The World Bank, created to fund reconstruction of war-torn Europe more than a half-century ago, does try to alleviate poverty and jump-start economic growth.

Neither the World Bank nor the IMF is above criticism; but the demonstrators tried to tie their complex roles to absolutist slogans. The demonstrators chose not to make their statements in time-honored fashion on the Mall. Their numbers would not have impressed. So some opted for anarchy, but were thwarted.

It was a nuisance for Washingtonians. That's the price for being a world capital.

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