Sunday, 16 April, 2000Police clash with IMF protesters
Police have fired tear gas at protesters attempting to disrupt an International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington.
The clash with 300 anarchists in central Washington took place as thousands of other protesters blocked streets around the IMF and World Bank buildings nearby.
But the protesters failed to stop the IMF's main policy-making committee from meeting.
Delegates started arriving at 0500 in the morning local time (1000 GMT) before the protesters had assembled.
A BBC correspondent says the two rounds of tear gas fired by police had a temporary calming effect on the protesters, who were wearing balaclavas and bandanas.
Earlier police sprayed some demonstrators in the eyes and hit others with batons as they tried to push back crowds breaking down a barricade outside the US Treasury Department, next to the White House.
IMF acting managing director Stanley Fischer told reporters as he arrived for the meeting: "We will meet, we will get through this."
The demonstrators are seeking maximum publicity for their case against economic globalisation, especially the harm they say this causes developing countries.
Washington police fear a repeat of last December's riots at the world trade summit in Seattle.
The police chief, Charles Ramsey, says he does not mind peaceful demonstrations but he is determined to prevent violence.
More than 10,000 protesters are expected to take part in marches and rallies.
Inside the IMF meeting hall, finance ministers from 24 rich and poor countries have a heavy agenda to tackle.
Several of them have said they share the demonstrators' main concern - to reduce poverty - and they will be discussing issues relating to this.
The ministers and IMF officials will also be examinig progress on debt relief for developing countries under a scheme agreed last September.
Another item on the agenda is what might be done to prevent a repeat of the the Asian economic crisis. One idea is more active surveillance by the IMF for early warning signs of trouble brewing.
Earlier, police arrested more than 600 protesters who they said had been marching without a permit.
The arrests came after a 90-minute stand-off within six blocks of the White House.
Those detained were led away to waiting buses, hands restrained behind their backs with plastic handcuffs, despite making repeated pleas to be allowed to leave the area quietly.
The protests have been affecting the whole weekend's agenda in Washington.
The gathering on Saturday of finance ministers from the G7 group of leading industrialised nations was overshadowed by growing tension over the protests and also by huge falls in the price of shares in New York on Friday.
Show of strength
Washington assistant police chief Terrence Gainer said the demonstrators had refused to heed warnings over their behaviour.
"These people were parading without a permit, and while they were under police escort, they kept on disobeying the orders to keep to the sidewalks," he said.
The protesters responded to the police action by chanting: "This is what a police state looks like ... arrest the IMF ... arrest the IMF."
Earlier, police raided and closed down a warehouse used by protesters as their headquarters, saying fire officials had found it to be unsafe.
Two people were arrested as the centre was evacuated.
The protesters said police had confiscated their food but that they had simply moved their centre of operations elsewhere.