After mass arrests in D.C.
Broad condemnation of police repression
By Sarah Sloan
Sloan is a leading youth organizer of
the International Action Center and
was one of those arrested on April 15.
Five days after mass arrests of protesters began in
Washington, over 150 people were still in jail. "Demand their
release" was the call that went out as activists returned to
their homes across the country after a successful week of
struggle against the International Monetary Fund and World
Phone calls, faxes and emails hit the Washington police
department and courts. The blitz called for everyone's release
and the dropping of the illegal charges, reiterating that the
real criminals are the IMF and World Bank.
By April 21, almost everyone was out. Over 100 activists
were still outside the jails in a support demonstration as the
last people were being released.
The mass arrests had begun a day earlier than planned--on
Over 1,000 people marched that day at the Justice Department
against the prison-industrial complex and to free Mumia
Abu-Jamal, in a demonstration called by the International
Action Center. Police block ed off both ends of the street as
the protest was dispersing, refused to allow anyone to leave.
The cops arrested 678 people, including many who were in
Washington to protest the IMF and World Bank, as well as
passersby, some members of the press, and even one or two World
The next day, Washington Mayor Anthony Williams described
these arrests as "proactive, precautionary and preventive."
This means that the arrests--as well as the raid on the
Convergence Center headquarters for the April 16-17 actions and
other earlier arrests--amounted to an unconstitutional
"preventive detention" policy. Opponents of the U.S. government
were arrested not for what they'd done but for who they
When the whole world is watching
In the demonstrations and street actions around the IMF that
followed on April 16 and 17, the number of those arrested grew
to 1,300 people.
The resistance on these two days was great. But what
differentiated April 17 was the level of police repression. The
big-business media would like people to believe that April 16
was a failure and that April 17 was an even greater
But that's not what really happened. And it shows the need
for an independent, working-class press to report on these
The Washington police spent months fine-tuning their
public-relations apparatus. This "velvet glove" covered the
iron-fist repression against the demonstrators.
In the days leading up to the demonstrations the media ran
human-interest stories. But meanwhile police were pulling over
vans with out-of-state plates, arresting the drivers, raiding
homes, and raiding and eventually shutting down the Convergence
When the whole world
Over the course of the week after the demonstrations, as the
arrested flowed out of the jails, reports began surfacing--on
the Internet, in alternative media and even in some
big-business media --about police violence against the
protesters in the streets and jails.
Volunteer medics reported that dozens of demonstrators had
been sprayed, beaten and abused in unprovoked police attacks in
Some protesters passed out after being released from jail.
One woman rushed out, extremely dehydrated, and fainted. She
hadn't been allowed water or food for an entire day, as was the
case for most people. They were also denied access to
bathrooms, medical attention and contact with lawyers.
One report told of a police interrogator posing as a member
of the Midnight Special Legal Collective--volunteer lawyers who
represent the activists.
One protester reported having three ribs broken while being
arrested. Another was beaten in the face and then loaded into a
patrol wagon, leaving a pool of blood in the street.
Those arrested reported numbness from extremely tight
handcuffs. They were shackled hand to foot, slammed into walls
and thrown to the ground, and threatened with rape, torture and
long jail sentences.
Next stop: Democratic and Republican conventions
The historic April 15-17 protests in Washington forced the
bankers and finance ministers to go on the defensive. Instead
of promoting the policies of their destructive institutions,
they had to answer charges that they are ravaging and
impoverishing the world as instruments of capitalist
globalization. They had to sneak into their meeting like the
criminals they are.
The police suppression of the demonstrations revealed the
repressive apparatus of the capitalist state--the cops, the
courts and the laws that they enforce. The state is not an
impartial arbiter maintaining public order and safety in
society, but a tool of ruling-class violence and coercion.
Thousands of young people who came from around the country
to protest in solidarity with those oppressed by global
capitalism began to protest in solidarity with the oppressed
inside the U.S. They got to see a glimpse of the repressive
apparatus of the cops and the prison system that is used every
day in a virtual war against African American and Latino
communities. This war has left one out of every four Black men
in some phase of the prison system and has stolen the future
from many working-class youth.
These are bound to become primary factors in this emerging
movement which, to attain its goals, must engage the workers
and the oppressed in the struggle to overturn the entire
capitalist profit system.
But even before this new movement reaches full consciousness
of this goal, the capitalist government wants it to fail. The
protests in Washington showed that the police force and entire
repressive apparatus of the capitalist state, along with the
monopolized media, will be used to attempt to smash the
movement as it is getting off the ground.
This movement, which is orienting away from the trap of the
two big-business parties, may be seen next protesting to shut
down the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles and the
Republican Convention in Philadelphia. At these conventions,
the demand to free Mumia Abu-Jamal will be on the top of the
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