Police, IMF-World Bank Protesters Clash in D.C.; 2 Buildings Damaged

By Michael Alison Chandler, Aaron C. Davis and Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, April 26, 2009

Two bank branches in Logan Circle sustained more than $110,000 in damage before dawn yesterday when at least 15 people dressed in black used bricks, hammers and sticks to smash windows, smearing red paint symbols that denounced the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, police said.

Security cameras in the 1400 block of P Street NW captured images of the vandals racing down the sidewalk at 5:20 a.m., residents said. As they went, they spilled red paint, which police say was later found streaked on the soles of several suspects' shoes and on their clothes.

The scale of vandalism was highly unusual, even in a city where political demonstrations are commonplace and sometimes unruly. Six people were arrested, and another person was charged later in the day when police clashed with almost 200 demonstrators.

The day's events were a prelude to a protest planned for today, the largest of several timed to coincide with the IMF and World Bank's spring meetings in Washington. Organizers expect more than 500 people to gather at 2 p.m. at Dupont Circle.

Yesterday, a two-hour demonstration through downtown ended near the IMF headquarters on 19th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, where police tried to force the protesters off the street and then used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

One protester was taken to a hospital with a splint on his leg. Dozens of others, along with a police officer, were treated at the scene for burning skin and eyes. A 22-year-old demonstrator was arrested after kicking a police officer who had fallen off a bicycle, police said.

Police said they believe that the vandalism at the banks -- a PNC branch and a Wachovia branch -- was associated with the groups that organized the protests later in the morning, although several demonstrators denied involvement.

Five of the six suspects, ages 18 to 26, were not from the area, police said. The vandals painted the initials IMF and WB on the bank buildings, each in a circle with a slash through it.

"We believe that they are linked," said Cmdr. James Crane, head of the department's Special Operations Division. "It's a logical conclusion."

Robert Scanlan, who lives above the PNC branch, peered out his bedroom window after hearing the commotion below and saw the group sprinting by. When he left for work later, he realized that the vandals had smashed eight of the bank's large windows and left graffiti on a ninth.

"It was just horrible," Scanlan said. "I can understand they may have their beliefs about things, but this is way beyond . . . it won't get them anywhere."

An off-duty D.C. police officer working security at a nearby drugstore arrested two of the suspects. Officers arrested four others as they fled the area, police said.

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