rn: Wld Bank Employee arrested


Jan Slakov

Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000 15:11:50 -0230 (NDT)
From: jan m <•••@••.•••>
Subject: World Bank employee arrested with protesters - his story


Independent Media Center, Washington, DC http://dc.indymedia.org

Global Justice is Not a "Nebulous Thing" Tuesday 18 Apr 2000

author: Leon Galindo (•••@••.•••)


On Saturday, April 15 I was illegally arrested and imprisoned for 23 hours,
together with hundreds of peaceful protesters and at least a dozen innocent
bystanders of which I was one. As a consultant to the World Bank, a citizen
of a developing country, and a person who has committed his life to the work
of development I was appalled by the conduct of the police and by the way
the "system" works. As a consequence, I am now far more sympathetic with the
demands of the protesters and just a tad more cynical about the "establishment."

I was arrested with no explanation, no prior warning, and for no legitimate
reason. I was standing close to the protesters because I disagreed with much
of what I had heard them say in the media prior to coming to Washington
D.C.. I wanted to hear in person what they had to say in order to decide for
myself whether their arguments were reasonable or not and to summarize
conclusions in a note for the World Bank's daily internal newsletter. I was
not the only one, Magali Laguerre, a Haitian colleague at the World Bank,
had the same
purposes and was also arrested. So were several tourists and local
residents who were literally just passing by.

I had been there for less than five minutes when the police closed both
sides of the street and did not allow anyone to pass even though nothing
except a peaceful march was taking place. No warning was given. No
explanation was made. When I asked to pass or for an explanation on what was
happening, no response was given. After an hour in which dozens of
additional police arrived, police started handcuffing people one by one and
marching them onto school buses. Not one protester was violent or in any way

My experience was similar to that of hundreds of others, including women
and many teenagers. I was roughly handcuffed for over 17 hours (my arms and
shoulders are still sore), repeatedly lied to, and denied an explanation of
any kind or access to a telephone or to any means of informing my wife what
was happening until 5:00 am the next day, 12 hours later. A demonstrator who
had come from Texas with his son was not able to receive any information
from the police on the status of his teenage son who had no money, no
contacts in Washington D.C., and who had done nothing except protest peacefully.
Several were looking for their girlfriends and also were not given any
information, and Jim, a biologist with a health problem, was repeatedly told
by police that they could do nothing to help him retrieve his medication. I
could not help but think that it was through illegitimate and unjust arrests
such as this one that the terrible nightmares of political prisoners from
around the world had begun. I could not believe that this was happening in
the United States of America. Contrary to declarations in the press today
by Chief Ramsey, I did not see much professionalism among the police on the
inside, where there was no media to ensure accountability. Instead, I
witnessed harsh threats, incompetence, and injustice, very worrying to see
in the police force of a democratic and powerful nation.

Fortunately, we were in the United States, and it only took 19 hours before
a lawyer appeared, and 5 more before a mock trial took place, and so we did not
"disappear" as common people, similar to us, may have had this occurred in a
different country. The way they handled us, it certainly felt like they
could do so if they chose to. I was released after 23 hours on Sunday at
4:00 p.m. with no charges, because it was neither in the interest of the
court nor in mine to keep the record. For me, this open letter is the record.

The group I was with was transported to three different facilities, all
heavily guarded. The first was a detention center for mentally ill patients.
We spent three hours in an overcrowded room in which it was so hot that it
became difficult to breathe and all were sweating. Only when the more than
50 people in the room started to really get angry did they allow us to use
the bathroom or have a drink of water, some five to six hours after being
detained. In almost 24 hours the only food provided was one sandwich with
balone that was almost green.

For all practical purposes, the police proved to be the greatest allies of
the protesters in this demonstration because they perfectly proved the point
the protesters were trying to make in this march: poverty and suppression of
liberty go hand in hand and lead to further social injustice. In my own
case, this first-hand experience of American police and prisons was an
enlightening, life-changing event that helped me to fully understand the
sometimes incoherently expressed, but otherwise perfectly legitimate and
profound arguments that I now firmly believe the majority of the protesters
were out to make.

In this particular demonstration, protesters had centered their diverse
arguments on the relationship between the "Prison-Industrial Complex" and
the Structural Adjustment Programs enforced by the International Monetary
Fund and World Bank in developing countries. As a passerby earlier in the
day I had scoffed-I know the World Bank, respect its work enormously, and
agree with someone who said that blaming the World Bank for causing world
poverty is like blaming the Red Cross for beginning World Wars I and II. I
did and still do believe that many of the protesters have not bothered to
themselves on what these institutions do. If they had they would have
greater respect for these institutions and would perhaps even seek ways to
coordinate efforts with the World Bank to achieve their goals, as many other
non-profit and other organizations already do.

On the other hand, after a day in prison listening to, and speaking with a
number of the protesters, many of them highly educated and decent people
with coherent arguments, I understood their point and it is a simple and
valid one. In essence, they argue that too many powerful institutions and
individuals, both in the United States and in developing countries, are
ignoring the fundamental principles and liberties that are the sine qua non
foundations for a free society and an open economy. I agree, especially
after having been
imprisoned and being subject to the ruthlessness with which people with
power can treat those who have no power.

As Noble Laureate Amartya Sen recently argued in Development as Freedom,
political freedom and economic development must go hand in hand. As Joseph
Stiglitz and others have repeatedly pointed out, the World Bank and
particularly the IMF and especially governments of their client countries
still have much to do be more accountable to the common citizen. And as the
protesters in this march against the "Prison-Industrial Complex" argue, and
direct experience this weekend confirmed, there are institutions in the
United States that would like to believe they are beyond accountability,
beginning with the police force which is supposed to uphold and not repress
freedom of expression. It is an unfortunate day when the image of great
institutions is tarnished, especially when their mission is precisely to
serve the public, reduce poverty, and build
free and fair societies. And yet the World Bank, the IMF and the governments
of both developed and developing nations are not helping their own cause or
serving their citizens when illegal arrests take place, especially when it
results from dissent of opinion.

I refer not only to the arrests that took place this weekend but to others
that take place around the world all the time. I have witnessed
demonstrations since I was a child in my own nation, Bolivia (where six
people were killed last week in demonstrations). The IMF and World Bank are
identified, rightly or wrongly, as symbols of global capitalism. As a
consultant to the World Bank and someone who firmly believes in its mission
and integrity, I believe it is a big mistake to further substantiate the
claims of radicals who throw the World Bank and IMF in the same bag as the
"Prison-Industrial Complex" and "greedy corporations." And yet that is
exactly what happened this weekend.
By ignoring the demonstrators, freezing communication, and delegating
intermediation to the police the World Bank and the IMF did not deal with
difference of opinion, and this is precisely, in my view, the severest
critique made by demonstrators. If this is how they dealt with dissent in
Washington D.C., who is to argue that it is not possible at least
indirectly, that
the Bank and the IMF would turn a blind eye to similar tactics used by
governments and their police forces in developing nations.

As things turned out, a few radicals that explicitly advocated extreme
positions set the tone of the demonstrations. As a result, there are now
more people who are convinced that the World Bank and IMF might in some way
be linked to injustice in developing nations. Constructive alternatives,
such as an open forum in which representatives of these groups could express
their concerns and in turn learn more about the work of the IMF and the
World Bank, would have had the opposite effect, nurturing allies for the war
on poverty instead of misinformed and disgruntled opponents.

The significance of this weekend's events lie not so much in whether one
side or the other is ultimately right in its arguments. Rather, it is that
there are people who have legitimate concerns to share publicly, that these
people have to take to the streets in order to be heard, and that for better
or worse the image and legitimacy of good institutions were damaged.

If the World Bank, the IMF, and governments refuse to listen to
well-educated and caring people who come all the way to their doorsteps, and
if street protests, prisons, and the use of police force are the preferred
tools to avoid engaging in dialogue, we are all headed down a dangerous
path. The protesters of course are not all innocent or correct -among
them there are clearly ignorant, misinformed, and downright dangerous types
who do believe in violence and do not respect or even care about the rights that
many of their fellow protesters do believe in.

Nonetheless, as poorly expressed and incoherent as the arguments of the
protesters may seem their fundamental cause is correct and noble. And, it is
completely in tune with what thousands of people at the World Bank and IMF
work hard for every day: ensuring that human beings everywhere have the
chance to live a decent life. To allow the police of any nation to
intimidate and suppress voices through such illegal and totally stupid
procedures as those used in Washington D.C. this weekend-methods that
sometimes have far worse
consequences in developing countries-is for these institutions, the United
States Police, the World Bank, and the IMF, to agree or at least condone
what a U.S. Marshall screamed in my ear as he violently slammed me into a
wall when reminded that he was violating my fundamental rights: "Down here
there is no democracy. This place is a dictatorship and I am God. If you
open your mouth again I will kick your ass till you are sorry."

To cite the front page of this weeks, The Economist, this is a "testing
time for the world economy," and unless the IMF, the World Bank, and
governments around the world fully embrace the classical principles upon
which free societies are build and which Amartya Sen reminds us
of--political freedom and economic development must go hand in hand--old and
"forgotten dangers "will come back to haunt us. After being illegally
arrested for 23 hours, handcuffed for 17 of those hours, and seriously
threatened and intimidated for a
crime I had not committed, I clearly understood what the protesters are
after. "Global justice" is not a "nebulous thing", as The Economists' April
15th article on the protesters puts it. Very simply stated, global justice
is the call for institutions and individuals worldwide to respect and
seriously uphold the basic principles upon which free, civilized, humane,
and prosperous societies are built.

Leon Galindo Vienna, Virginia April 17, 2000 •••@••.•••

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