Anti-Globalization Protesters Set Sights on New York Meeting

Anti-globalization activists admit that Sept. 11 may have set the movement back a bit, but they are vowing to continue their often-violent crusade against what they see as corporate injustice at the scene of the crime: New York City.

While some say the protests, planned to coincide with the World Economic Forum meeting Jan. 31 through Feb. 4, might be inappropriate in a city still recovering from the attacks, the protesters say their efforts are actually public-spirited.

"People who understand what we're about understand that it is inherently patriotic," said Kate Cooper, an organizer for Another World is Possible, which is one of the many groups planning protests, rallies, teach-ins and other events around the forum.

"The way we feel, as part of this movement, is that we are part of an extremely patriotic movement – we're here for the little guy, in essence," said Cooper, who lives in New York.

"Inequality, hunger, poverty, lack of access to clean water – causes the kind of things that lead people to do horrible things. If anything, what happened at the World Trade Center underscores that message."

The World Economic Forum, which is usually set at a swanky resort in Davos, Switzerland, is privately funded and is billed as a gathering of 3,200 of the world's top business leaders, economic experts, academic and government leaders to discuss the state of world economics.

Activists involved in plotting the New York protests are the same who led the raucous and violent December 2000 demonstrations at a World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, as well as equally violent demonstrations in Washington, Prague and Genoa. In Seattle alone, some 500 people were arrested, protestors destroyed dozens of businesses and a civil emergency was declared to restore order.

John Cavanagh, the director of the Institute for Policy Studies, which is joining other groups to organize rallies and teach-ins next week, said the groups he is working with have pledged peaceful protests in New York.

But earlier pledges of peace at such meetings have not held. The protests were taken over by more radical elements of the anti-globalization movement such as the Ruckus Society and freelance anarchist groups. A spokesman for the Ruckus Society refused comment to Fox News about its plans for New York, citing an "embargo" against the news network.

A new component of the New York protest scene will be a strong anti-war contingent, though not all the participants are expected to embrace that mantra. Thea Lee, a public policy director for the AFL-CIO, which is sending a contingent to speak inside and outside the forum, said her group would not be taking part in the anti-war protests.

"We are sensitive to those issues," Lee said. "We want to do this as non-violently as possible."

War won't be the only thing activists will be bringing to the table. Expected to attend are Students for Global Justice, The Public Eye on Davos, Reclaim the Streets, The International Action Center, Public Citizen, Workers Democracy Network, International Socialist Organization and the anarchistic Anti-Capitalist Convergence.

Organizers would not estimate the numbers expected in New York next week or whether it would be free of the spectacle that drew so much media attention at previous demonstrations. "It's hard to say, there will be anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands," Cooper said. "There are going to be activists coming in from all over the world."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office said the city had welcomed the forum with open arms, considering the boon to the business it will have, if even for a brief period. Spokesperson Jennifer Falk said the 40,000-member police force is ready for anything.

"It's America and free speech is something that we embrace," she said. "But while exercising that right they should exercise restraint, especially at a time when the city has been suffering."