More than 150 Maine residents are expected to take part in protests this weekend in the nation’s capital that are targeted at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The District of Columbia police force has been placed on heightened alert as activists try to prevent the World Bank and IMF from holding their annual spring meetings.
Protesters from Maine range from teen-agers to longtime activists who demonstrated decades ago against the Vietnam War. They include labor organizers, environmentalists, peace activists and students.
Some of the Mainers are preparing themselves for possible violence.
Scott Fuhrman, 25, of Old Orchard Beach has come equipped with a gas mask, goggles, first-aid kit and some rubber-soled shoes in case he needs to make a quick getaway.
“Our goal is to stop the meetings from happening, and I’m willing to get arrested for it,” Fuhrman said. “I’m basically fighting the evil energies — the negative forces. I just can’t sit back at home and not do anything about it. It would be unconscionable.”
Tom Andrews, the former Maine congressman, has been helping to organize this weekend’s protests.
“What’s at stake is democracy,” said Andrews, who serves as president of New Economy Communications, a progressive strategy and communications group in Washington.
Critics say the World Bank and IMF impose severe penalties on the poor countries they help with loans and economic bailouts, siphoning money needed for social programs. Other complaints focus on oppressive working conditions and environmental devastation.
“If they continue to run the institutions undemocratically and unjustly, they’ll have to expect that people will rise up against them,” said Joe Duncan, 16.
Andrews said this weekend’s protests should serve as “a wake-up call to decision makers that something real is going on here . . . These concerns can’t just be dismissed. They have to be addressed openly and honestly.”