Protesters march for Palestinians, against aid to Colombia

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

WASHINGTON -- After reciting a pledge against vandalism, violence and even running or swearing, hundreds of protesters marched peacefully to the Capitol on Monday to oppose U.S. funding for the Colombian military.

Four days of demonstrations in the nation's capital wrapped up Monday evening with a large pro-Palestinian rally outside the annual convention of a powerful Jewish lobbying group. Though the weekend's protests were organized around the now-ended spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, a wide variety of causes was on display.

Police steeled for trouble each day, especially during Monday's unauthorized demonstrations that organizers had said could produce disturbances. But all events were mostly peaceful.

Police officials credited protest leaders for urging nonviolence. A large law enforcement turnout also appeared to dampen any enthusiasm for confrontation.

Protesters gathered before dawn Monday near the Washington Monument to object to U.S. aid to the Colombian military in its anti-guerrilla war and to a U.S. Army school that trains Latin American soldiers, some of whom have gone on to commit human rights abuses.

"Our money is going to kill people and that terrifies me," said Kristin Kumpf, 26, a St. Louis University student.

Led by an organizer with a bullhorn, demonstrators recited a nonviolence pledge before setting off on the 1.5-mile hike to the Capitol. As they walked, they were flanked by solid lines of police on motorcycles and horseback and in full riot gear.

Assistant police chief Terrance Gainer estimated there were about 1,000 protesters and about 700 police.

Police chief Charles Ramsey said a quick pace and the early start contributed to city streets that were hardly more snarled than usual. "People are being very peaceful, and I appreciate it," he said.

A few dozen activists kneeled, hands linked, to block two entrances to the Capitol grounds. Eventually, Capitol Police pulled out plastic handcuffs and arrested 37 people for obstructing traffic. Ramsey thanked some of those who were arrested for being peaceful.

One minor scuffle occurred when police corralled a large group into a Capitol Hill park, producing some shoving and flared tensions. But there were no arrests there and the crowd soon proceeded to an approved celebratory rally in another park across the street.

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