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Peace prevails during protest

A little flexibility by the Aspen Institute and local cops went a long way Saturday toward keeping the peace at a protest of 250 people.

A splinter group of about 60 protesters was determined to get closer to the music tent Saturday evening while World Bank president James Wolfensohn was speaking at an Institute symposium.

A coalition of Aspen police officers and Pitkin County deputy sheriffs erected barricades and warned the protesters they couldn’t leave Gillespie Street to enter the private parking lot on the Aspen Meadows campus.

The crowd wasn’t prepared to take no for an answer and at least some of them appeared willing to risk a trespassing charge. Deputy Sheriff Joe Di-Salvo, working as incident commander for the event, brokered a compromise.

He received permission from John Bennett, former Aspen mayor and the Institute’s vice president of the Aspen campus, to allow the protesters to make a loop through the parking lot and come within 25 yards of the tent during Wolfensohn’s presentation.

“Anybody who stops gets arrested,” DiSalvo told the attentive crowd. “I hate to use that threat, but that’s the way it is.”

After that warning, the protesting procession was led by two people sporting puppets that protruded about 12 feet into the air. One was a fiery devil while the other was a dragon with an “imperialism” banner.

“We call them the puppets of the ruling elite,” explained Mark Cohen of Denver, who was wearing the dragon. “They signify the forces that are ruining our world.”

The protesters marched single file through the parking lot to the cadence of drums and whooped out chants like, “World Bank – what are you for? You feed the rich to starve the poor!”

A reporter in the tent during Wolfensohn’s speech said the chants were clearly audible but not disruptive. A few heads turned while the procession was loudest, the reporter observed.

Once the protesters made their lap, they dispersed with a cheer after DiSalvo informed them that word from the tent was “they heard you loud and clear.” Targeting globalization The protest and larger march and rally that involved an estimated 250 people were part of “The People’s Summit on Globalization,” a day of education and anger directed at economic globalization.

The event was organized by Mountain Folks for Global Justice, one of the more vibrant activist organizations in the valley, and the Stepstone Center, which helps groups working for social justice. Both organizations are based in Carbondale.

The daylong presentations featured speakers such as Kevin Danaher, a representative of Global Exchange, a human rights advocacy group; and Jello Biafra, social commentator, renowned advocate of free speech, and former lead singer of the punk rock band Dead Kennedys.

But it was the march and rally that attracted the most people. The general theme was that the policies of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization are benefiting corporations at the expense of workers, individual rights and the environment, especially in Third World countries.

Organizers estimated that the crowd of 250 was split between valley residents and those outside the area, primarily from the Front Range. Message needs to be heard The message of the protesters needs to be heard “or we’re in for trouble,” said Chuck Worley, 82, of Cedaredge, Colo. He marched on Aspen’s streets with a homemade sign that said, “Big money, big trouble.”

“I’ve been involved in this sort of thing for some time,” said Worley.

On the other end of the age spectrum was Eric Loftman, a senior at Colorado University who wore a red and black plaid cheerleader’s dress. With his voice booming through a megaphone, he led a chant in front of the Institute that said in part, “I say up with the people, I say down with the bosses, I say down with the bankers.”

Loftman was one in the crowd who was determined to get the message to Wolfensohn. “I’m going to stay here and make sure he personally hears our message,” he said.

The reaction to the biggest protest in Aspen since President Bush spoke at the tent a decade ago was varied. A Range Rover full of young men apparently yelled some derogatory remarks as they went past Paepcke Park during a rally.

Other people on the streets stared with blank faces or snapped pictures. Some motorists honked and some pedestrians clapped. Mead Montgomery, who was attending the Institute’s symposium, and his wife took time to engage in polite debate with two protesters while they were heading to the tent.

Montgomery stressed that the symposium was a nonpartisan, unbiased examination of issues. He concluded the discussion by saying, “Anyway – we’re glad you people are out here.”

In contrast was a woman who rushed by the protesters to the tent. The woman, who identified herself as an Institute employee, suggested the protesters didn’t know the facts of the issues.

The protesters, of course, begged to differ. The common theme among rank-and-file and featured speakers was that people around the world will eventually realize the harm of big business and corporate dominance.

Global Exchange’s Danaher said activists are building a “transatlantic democratic economy” that will be based on individual rather than corporate welfare. It might take five, 15 or 50 years, but people will understand that much of the world’s ills – oppression, poverty, pollution – are tied to corporate dominance.

“As the crisis mounts, more people come over to our point of view,” Danaher said.


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