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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 Bank.

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 April 15.

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 Bank delegates.

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 were.

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 failure.

But that's not what really happened. And it shows the need for an independent, working-class press to report on these struggles.

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 Center.

When the whole world
wasn't watching

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 the streets.

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 protesters' agenda.

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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