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Protest planned for Institute summit

When the Aspen Institute celebrates its 50th anniversary later this month there will be distinguished speakers, honored guests, exclusive gatherings – and a demonstration.

Two Carbondale-based organizations believe the Institute’s golden anniversary celebration has too much of a corporate view to it. They are offering an alternative to the Institute’s four-day symposium.

Mountain Folks for Global Justice and the Stepstone Center are sponsoring their own forum called “The People’s Summit on Globalization,” featuring a presentation by Jello Biafra, political activist and former frontman for the punk rock group Dead Kennedys.

The event on Saturday, Aug. 19, will also feature “teach-ins,” a march past the Institute’s campus, a rally at Paepcke Park and possibly a mock trial of Henry Kissinger.

“We’re not protesting the Aspen Institute. We’re protesting globalization,” said Mike Chamness, co-founder of Mountain Folks for Global Justice.

All this is being done – more or less – with the understanding of Institute officials.

“Everybody loves a parade,” quipped John Bennett, vice president of the Institute’s Aspen campus and former Aspen mayor. A `civil’ protest Actually, Bennett and Mountain Folks organizer Mike Chamness have come to an understanding. The Institute is cooperating with the activists in ways such as sharing media lists and exploring a debate or exchange of guest speakers to help spread different opinions.

In return, Mountain Folks and Stepstone Center have vowed to do everything they can to have their audience avoid disrupting the Institute’s activities. They claim their demonstration will be a model of civility.

Demonstrations over globalization turned violent earlier this year in Seattle and Washington, D.C.

“We hope to set a national precedent on how to have a peaceful demonstration,” said Felicia Trevor, executive director of the Stepstone Center.

Chamness said counterculture events usually depend on a “stunt or raucous behavior” to draw attention. “The People’s Summit on Globalization” won’t need that because so many reporters from around the country will be in town to cover the Institute’s symposium, he said.

“We don’t want one silly little incident to define the entire weekend,” said Chamness. “For us, the goal is to keep us as viable as possible and still get our points across.”

Mountain Folks advocates fair trade and contends that corporate globalization has negative effects on labor issues, human rights and environmental policies. They are among a growing number of protesters who claim the policies of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization benefit corporations at the expense of Third World countries and their citizens. Institute is neutral Bennett said he’s not sure why the people’s summit organizers think the Institute’s symposium promotes economic globalization. It doesn’t, he insisted. It’s merely getting together some of the most revered thinkers in the world to discuss implications of globalization.

In addition, he said economic globalization is only part of the picture being examined at the symposium. There are also effects on human rights and living conditions.

He challenged the alternative organizations’ assertion that the featured speakers at the Institute’s event are biased toward a corporate view of the world. They range from “quite liberal to quite conservative,” he said.

“I have to say we have no idea where some of our invitees stand on some of these issues,” said Bennett.

“Globalization and the Human Condition,” Aug. 19-22, features former President Jimmy Carter; former Secretary of State Kissinger; James Wolfenshohn of the World Bank; Gerald Levin, CEO of Time Warner; and author Stephen Ambrose, to name a few.

Also participating are former Costa Rica President Oscar Arias and former World Bank representative Herman Daly, who have been critical of economic globalization, whose philosophies are supported by Mountain Folks. `Peace Patrol’ for parade The alternative “People’s Summit on Globalization” will be held at the Aspen Elementary’s School District Theater. Along with headliner Biafra, the teach-in workshops will be led by Kevin Danaher, co-founder of Global Exchange; Njoki Njehu, director of 50 Years is Enough; and Hunter Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Tickets are $7.50 for the teach-ins, $10 for Biafra’s evening presentation, or $15 for a combination. They are available at Sounds Easy in Carbondale and Funky Mountain Threads in Aspen.

A parade Saturday afternoon will wind into Aspen from the elementary school to a rally on Main Street’s Paepcke Park. It will go past the Institute’s campus on the way back to the school, according to Chamness.

He said the organizers will send along a “peace patrol” and be accompanied by Aspen police officers to make sure nothing gets out of hand.

“It doesn’t get too much more lovely than this,” Chamness said.

Trevor said organizers felt some sort of visual presence at the Aspen Institute was necessary for opponents of globalization. The parade accomplishes that goal and lets attendees of the Institute symposium know alternative opinions exist.

“We’ve got to let the advocates of rampant world trade and corporate globalization know we’re not going to go away,” said Chamness.


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