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Same passions, new packaging for anticapitalist protests against World Bank, IMF

Run for the money: Paul T. McCarrier, left, of Portland, Maine, and a man who identified himself as Peter, joined the 5K Run on the Bank on Friday.
Run for the money: Paul T. McCarrier, left, of Portland, Maine, and a man who identified himself as Peter, joined the 5K Run on the Bank on Friday. (Dayna Smith For The Washington Post)

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By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 24, 2010

A decade ago this month, when the nation had so little to worry about, clouds of pepper spray wafted over Washington as thousands of protesters and police shut downtown with fences and blockades of flesh, chains and PVC pipe. Truce was negotiated in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue between a police commander and a woman dressed as a tree.

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On the 10th anniversary, with a crisis around every corner, the protest is this: an anarchist 5K Run on the Bank, tug-of-war on Pennsylvania Avenue, soccer in Dupont Circle, a scavenger hunt and baseball. Same passions, new packaging.

The protesters used MapMyRun.com to devise a race route that was exactly five kilometers.

"Why are we running?" apprentice farmer Molly Adelstein, 28, asked three dozen young people in Meridian Hill Park on Friday afternoon, as she led them through stretches drawn from the yoga sun salutation.

"To destroy capitalism," came the answer from one lanky runner in black shorts and shirt.

Later, 3.1 miles later to be exact, a 4-year-old tourist from suburban Philadelphia named Jackson Phillips had a different question for his mother.

"Why are they shouting?"

"They don't like the bank, so they're yelling at it," Julie Phillips explained.

This rite of Washington spring always raises more questions than it answers.

The action usually centers on Murrow Park, across from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the finance and development bodies that claim to fight poverty and instability but are demonized by globalization skeptics and environmentalists who say they do more harm than good.

April is when the bank and the fund have their spring meetings, and Washington fills with limos and motorcades as diplomats pack the poshest hotels. It's all a fat target for a traveling circus of protesters, who roll into town to fill the psychic space recently vacated by those other carnivals, the tea partiers and the gun activists.

But much has changed in the decade since April became the cruelest month for bankers and capitalists. Protester numbers are way down, tactics have morphed, some of the action has gone inside the bellies of the two beasts, which gives everyone leave to declare progress, if not victory.


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