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Protesters head to Philly...

(Published July 31, 2000)

By JOEL FURFARI

Staff Writer

On a rainy Wednesday night, about 30 of the District’s left-wing activists are assembled in a Columbia Heights church basement.

The World Bank/International Monetary Fund protests of April have come and gone, but the sentiments that drove thousands to a rally at the Ellipse are still festering in some. This time though, they’re taking their protest on the road – to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

A hearty group of D.C. activists planned to leave July 30 on a bus trip to the city of brotherly love to protest the Republican Party’s platform on a variety of issues ranging from workers’ rights and health care to gay rights and police brutality.

The D.C. group will be part of a larger national alliance going by the tongue-twisting moniker of R2D2k, referring to the year 2000 Republican and Democratic conventions.

The coalition is staging protests at both the Republican and Democratic parties’ presidential nominating conventions. The Democrats will convene Aug. 14-17 in Los Angeles.

Ellie Fingerman, who is coordinating the road trip to Philadelphia, said the protest is more than just an effort to keep Texas Gov. George W. Bush out of the White House. She said the Republican and Democratic conventions give demonstrators a chance to show the nation their opposition to many of the policies of both major political parties.

"We don’t want to see Bush win," she said, "but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s part of a larger demonstration. We’re not just against the Republicans."

Fingerman said she expected around 100 folks from the District and suburbs to pack the buses leaving from the Metro Center Metro station at 6:30 a.m., and returning that night. The day’s agenda includes a legal parade through the center city area as well as a "shadow convention" featuring speakers from around the country.

The similarities between the convention protests and earlier demonstrations against the World Bank and IMF in Washington and the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle are evident. Just as before, activists representing a wide array of causes have come together to form a loosely connected alliance.

"A lot of the members of this coalition worked on A16," said Fingerman, referring to the World Bank/IMF protests that centered around April 16. "We wanted to work on those campaigns against things we disagree with, and we thought this was a great way to continue that.

"We’re looking at a growing movement in this country — that we haven’t seen in decades — that’s starting to address more and more issues," she said.

At the planning meeting a few weeks before the convention, the protesters were already working themselves up. They practiced chanting slogans. They gave each other the chance to sound off on whatever political cause they espouse. And brevity was apparently not a quality many of the young demonstrators possess. The moderator, Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture, kept saying, "Be brief people, be brief."

Nkrumah-Ture said April’s World Bank protests and last year’s WTO demonstrations served as a blueprint for the high-profile gatherings that will go on outside this summer’s conventions.

"I think what happened in Seattle was a wakeup call... and A16 showed us the potential for human beings to come together," she said.

Before the convention, Fingerman gave her crew a sales pitch for the demonstration: "Secure your seat on the bus. Secure your seat in history."

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator