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UA students join national IMF, World Bank demonstration

By Irene Hsiao
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 17, 2000
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Protesters gather to stop globalization, sweatshops

Contrary to the television images of police attacking protesters with pepper spray and batons, two UA students in Washington, D.C., said weekend demonstrations against the International Monetary Fund were "almost mellow."

University of Arizona history senior Jennie Mahalick joined an estimated 30,000 other demonstrators and told the Arizona Daily Wildcat she found the crowds cordial.

"Overall, it was very peaceful," she said. "My experience, I thought, was very pleasant."

Mahalick said people of all ages calmly protested around the IMF building. Protesters sat in circles "locking down" the surrounding intersections and alleyways. Reports stated about 90 square blocks were sectioned-off in the downtown area.

On Saturday, more than 600 demonstrators were arrested and police shut down the protest headquarters. About 20 more were arrested yesterday.

"Everybody just took over the streets," she said. "It was amazing, these people with spiky hair talking to grandmas."

UA political science senior John Hardenbergh said he took part in the protest by waving a sign with a picture of the Capitol and a skull that said, "Morally Bankrupt," in reference to the World Bank.

Hardenbergh said chants of "This is what democracy looks like" and "World Bank and IMF, leading causes of Third World debt" rang out throughout the day.

The IMF was established in 1946 and consists of 182 countries. It oversees international financial matters and promotes economic growth. The World Bank provides financial assistance to developing countries around the world.

Protesters paraded around the nation's capital to show their disapproval of globalization and the World Bank as well. The two organizations met yesterday and today.

"There was some tension regarding who would march where, but nothing went out of control," said Hardenbergh, a UA Students Against Sweatshops member.

Mahalick, also a SAS member, spoke to an IMF delegate, who she described as nervous and surprised of her IMF knowledge.

"We were actually having a discussion and then he said, 'You're right,'" Mahalick said. "It was a wonderful feeling."

She said the problem with the IMF is the lax regulations in countries it has assisted. Mahalick gave the example of Mexico, where the IMF has cut government spending for education, which leads to children who can't afford schooling to work in sweatshops.

Hardenbergh said the two financial institutions are increasing the gap between the rich and the poor.

"It's driven a lot of people to poverty," he said. "It doesn't seem a very democratic way, everything's being dictated by the IMF and World Bank."

Law enforcement handled the crowd much better than the World Trade Organization protest in Seattle in November, Mahalick said.

"It was nothing like Seattle, it was just little bits of pepper spray," she said.

Mahalick assisted a few pepper sprayed victims. One protester was beaten, but she said that was "a very random case."

"There were three different cops joking with me and gave me high fives for workers' rights," she said. "I don't think that was happening in Seattle."

However, she described the environment as "intense" with police in riot gear.

Mahalick talked to some police who said, "We're probably just as scared as you are."

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