WASHINGTON DC -- Police arrested 32 protesters who sat down and linked arms to obstruct the 1900 block of L Street NW during rush hour this morning. The demonstrators were part of a group of 200 who marched and chanted for "global justice" and for the rights of local parking attendants to join a union.
The protest was timed to coincide with demonstrations in Prague today against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which are holding their annual meetings in that city. Similar protests were scheduled for more than 50 American cities today.
The protesters were charged with failure to obey a lawful order of a police officer and face fines of $100, said Sgt. Joe Gentile, a police spokesman.
"There's a divide between rich and poor that is becoming more and more global every day," said Nancy Harvin, 37, of the District, as officers placed plastic cuffs around her wrists.
L Street was blocked about 8:30 a.m., and all the protesters were loaded onto police vans and the street was reopened by 9 a.m. Traffic on one-way eastbound L Street was blocked at 21st Street NW during the incident.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey arrived on the scene before the arrests began. The first two protesters arrested were holding a banner that stretched across the street, saying "Justice For All." As the men were handcuffed, Ramsey took the banner and balled it up.
The demonstrators were part of the coalition of groups that took part in mass protests of the bank and the fund in the District in April. They said the action this morning was meant to highlight the local effects of the global economy.
The protest took place outside two garages operated by InterParking. Local 27 of the Parking and Service Workers Union has been trying to organize employees of InterParking, which is affiliated with an international investment company. Union leaders say InterParking has refused to promise to remain neutral during the period when employees can decide to join the union. They say many of InterParking's employees are immigrants from developing countries left behind by the global economy, and in America they are stuck in low-wage jobs.
"It's a good example of how the global market affects working families," said Roxie Herbekian, president of the union local.
Jeffrey Kovach, market officer for InterParking, responded that the union has refused the company's offer to initiate a vote on the union, following federal guidelines.
A 38-year-old employee of InterParking, who declined to give his name, said he came from Eritrea, where he said the World Bank and the IMF are attempting to dictate economic policies instead of providing the kind of aid the country wants. He said he has signed a petition asking the company to meet the union's demands, but he was not taking part in the demonstration.
As he watched the noisy spectacle on L Street, he said, "I think this is democracy, I guess. Democracy is working."
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