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Another World Is Under Construction
O n April 16, 2000 protests at the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) began five years of major demonstrations against these institutions in the United States. Five years later, on April 16, 2005, protesters again gathered in the seat of the world’s economic and military power to speak truth to the power of these institutions. The protests in Washington were the focal point of a weekend of action organized by the Mobilization for Global Justice (MGJ), a Washington-based, non-hierarchical, and nonviolent association of individuals and organizations that works on issues of global economic and social justice and sustainability.
Taking place during the Global Week of Action, the mobilization in Washington acted in solidarity with over 10 million people in 80 countries around the world raising their voices against an unjust international economic system. In addition to hundreds of actions in the U.S., protesters in Washington joined students in South Africa, unions in Egypt, workers and schoolchildren in Bangladesh, women in Chile, farmers in the Philippines, social workers in Kenya, fisherfolk in India, and millions of others around the world in calling for an end to the institutions that have, for the past half-century, employed the mechanisms of oppression, debt slavery, and imperialism in the service of corporate and elite power.
Borrowing from the World Social Forum, the theme of the weekend was “Another World Is Under Construction,” highlighting community alternatives and resistance to externally-imposed policies in DC and around the world. Another primary focus of the protests was MGJ’s demands of the World Bank and the IMF, demands that are informed and supported by grassroots social movements around the world.
The Group of 7
R eflecting their coordination in the global economy, the finance ministers of the Group of 7 (G7) countries (U.S., UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan) met the day before the Spring meetings of the World Bank and the IMF. On the agenda of the G7 was debt cancellation for impoverished countries, which had undergone protracted debate. Whereas last year’s G7 proposals for debt cancellation included debt owed to both the World Bank and IMF, this Spring the U.S. Treasury stopped talking about cancelling IMF debt, a critical component of debt cancellation.
To reiterate the demand for 100 percent debt cancellation for all impoverished countries with no harmful economic conditionalities and using the World Bank and IMF’s own resources, MGJ—along with co-organizers Jubilee USA Network, 50 Years Is Enough Network, Religious Working Group on the World Bank and IMF, Africa Action, and American Friends Service Committee—held a rally in advance of the G7 meeting, urging the ministers to make the right choice.
A lively crowd of about 150 people gathered on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Treasury building in downtown Washington, while speakers made the case for debt cancellation, citing the illegitimate origins of these debts, the prior repayment of the principal, and the destructive effects of debt servicing and loan conditions imposed by the World Bank and IMF on indebted countries. MGJ staged street theater that examined the foundation of the G7.
also sponsored a teach-in for activists in the U.S. to share insights
and strategies with activists from the Global South. The teach-in
highlighted the similarities between economic policies in Washington,
DC and in the Global South, which are based on the same neo-liberal
philosophy that privileges the market and the economic interests
of the wealthy few over the lives of the majority of people in this
The teach-in featured a panel of organizers from the Global South, including Virginia Setshedi of the Anti-Privatization Forum (South Africa), Victor Geronimo of COMPA/Coordination of Popular, Union, and Drivers Organizations (Dominican Republic), and Lidy Nacpil of the Freedom from Debt Coalition/Jubilee South (Philippines). U.S. speakers included Devin Walker from the DC Health Care Coalition, an organization fighting for affordable health care for all residents of Washington, DC, and Basav Sen from MGJ.
The over 70 participants at the teach-in shared stories of struggle, experiences, and strategies on issues they had in common, despite their diverse geographical origins. The group focused on the privatization of essential services; gentrification and displacement; affordable housing; forced immigration; worker’s rights; and the need for increasing access to public health care and education.
On Saturday April 16, the first day of the World Bank and IMF meetings, over 1,000 protesters gathered in front of the headquarters of the two institutions in a spirited rally featuring Setshedi, Geronimo, and Washington’s Reverend Graylan Hagler, a longtime leader in the struggle for economic, social, and racial justice and the peace movement in the U.S. Emceed by human rights activist and World Bank critic Dr. Vineeta Gupta, the speakers presented damning evidence against the two financial institutions, pointing to their dismal records and their roles in exacerbating the poverty, health, education, environmental, and economic crises in debtor countries.
The protesters then turned their backs on the World Bank and IMF—in solidarity with millions around the world who are rejecting their policies—and marched out of downtown Washington, led by colorful puppets and the energetic music of the Rhythm Workers’ Union and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. The march culminated at a rally with more speakers, music, and spoken word performances.
Emphasizing resistance to the neo-liberal policies of the IMF and World Bank, the speakers included Nacpil and Jonah Gokova (Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development) who gave stirring accounts of the international movements for debt cancellation. Mario Cafiero, a member of the Argentine parliament, spoke of his country’s struggle against IMF policies. Giving a local perspective were peace activist Katy Nelson of the DC Anti- War Network and Vanessa Dixon of the DC Healthcare Coalition.
T he days of action concluded with an MGJ-sponsored community action project, co-organized with a local senior group, We Are Family. On Sunday, volunteers visited seniors in Washington residences, building intergenerational solidarity and connecting the dots between global struggles against neo-liberalism and corporate greed and local struggles against the same destructive policies in our own communities.
MGJ continues to build relationships and coalitions with groups in Washington and internationally. In the past year, MGJ has supported Washington-area movements working for fair labor practices, including the Georgetown Students’ Living Wage Coalition, which recently won a living wage for Georgetown University employees, and solidarity actions with local parking lot workers.
Looking beyond the April mobilization, MGJ is committed to organizing around a myriad of other social justice issues while maintaining a focus on the World Bank and the IMF, including:
- A campaign to tax the World Bank and IMF, which own over $1.4 billion in property and who make $4 billion in profits, but which currently pay the cash-strapped city of Washington no taxes
- Free trade agreements, including rallies during the meetings of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the U.S.-Andean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), and the World Trade Organization (WTO)
- Participating in many events highlighting global processes and their effects locally, including Bio-democracy events protesting the annual meeting of the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Hope Chu has worked with the Mobilization for Global Justice for the past two years and is on staff at the 50 Years Is Enough Network in Washington, DC .
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.