Chicago Indymedia :
Chicago Indymedia

News :: [none]

Fenced Out

The more attention paid to the fence, the less will be paid to the meeting itself, and the more worked up protesters get against it, the more justified the police will be in bringing out the tear gas.
Fenced Out

This month, it's all about the fence.

Earlier this week, D.C. police announced that a key part of their $30-million security strategy for the upcoming World Bank/IMF meeting, to be held over the last weekend of September, will include a nine-foot chain-link fence around much of central Washington, a total of 220 acres encompassing the White House, the World Bank and IMF complex and the Ellipse.

Washington Chief of Police Charles Ramsey has said that such a step is necessary, given the recent outbursts of violence at world-trade-related meetings in Genoa, Gothenborg and Quebec City, as well as the department's estimate of 100,000 protesters descending on the city.

Of course, unlike other recent protest sites, Washington is no stranger to mass demonstrations. Even a 100,000-person turnout would pale in comparison with the March on Washington, the May Day anti-Vietnam protests and the Million-Man March. But none of those involved the kind of violence, at least on the part of some protesters, that has been a hallmark of every world-trade-related conference since the Seattle WTO summit in 1999. Ergo, a giant fence to keep the riffraff at bay.

In the week since the announcement of the fence, opponents have compared to it as everything from the Berlin Wall to the Maginot Line, and some have even organized a lawsuit against the plan. Both the pro- and anti-fence rhetoric has gotten heated, and it will predictably be the centerpoint of protest efforts. A fence is just a fence, in any case, and given the month-long lead time and accumulated previous experiences, activists are likely to have some pretty nifty anti-fence tactics. The Internet is already teeming with anti-fence postings, calling for a concerted effort to tear it down.

Not surprisingly, that's what many on the inside of the fence are hoping for. The more attention paid to the fence, the less will be paid to the meeting itself, and the more worked up protesters get against it, the more justified the police will be in bringing out the tear gas. As former Newark police chief and Police Foundation President Hubert Williams told the Washington Post, "If you can make the fence a target so police aren't the target, or private property is not the target, or individuals are not the target, then this fence would have served its purpose."

One of the many strategies of the pro-global-trade types has been to use the image of black-masked anarchists as a blanket with which to cover the complex topography of their opponents' positions. The vast majority of global-trade critics are peaceful, thoughtful people, but all it takes is a window smashed or a tear gas canister thrown to cast a pall on the entire effort. Thanks to violent protests, the IMF, the World Bank and other organizations, far from having to sit down and actually deal with their critics, have had the room to dismiss all opposition to the current trade regime as thuggish and reactionary. If the fence instigates aggressive protest, it will further that end. By tearing down the fence, protesters will not only divert attention from the real issue, but denigrate their cause in the process.

The proper response to the fence, then — indeed, to the entire $30-million security state Washington will become four weeks from now — is to ignore it. Many of those in Washington will be thinking of the street battles in Genoa, but what they should really have in mind is Ghandi's March to the Sea. Intelligent, non-violent protest will not only prove the movement worthy, but it will also show how excessive the "military-commercial" complex has become. It is the only way for the protesters to make the fence work for them, to highlight it not as a necessary bulwark between globalizers and thugs, but as an obstacle to the democratic dialogue so desperately needed in the global trade regime.

— Clay Risen (clay (at)



Account Login

Media Centers


This site made manifest by dadaIMC software