Sound Montage of anti-World Bank/IMF protesters in Washington this weekend (2 minutes). Produced by the Independent Media Center. [includes rush transcript]
- Dennis Brutus, world-renowned poet and freedom fighter. He was a political prisoner on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela and is now working with Jubilee 2000 and the campaign to cancel the debt of developing nations. He is attending this week’s protest activities in Washington.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
This is what democracy sounds like! This is what democracy sounds like! This is what democracy sounds like! This is what democracy sounds like! This is what democracy sounds like!
They just pushed down a female protester onto the ground. They’re pushing her. They’re hitting her. They’re hitting her, pushing her into the street. They’re pushing her into the street with a baton. What’s the badge number? Get the badge number.
Those people who would decide that they’re going to take the law into their own hands in different ways, then we have an obligation to suppress that. Only to suppress it. You’ll notice that we’re not still up there beating them.
IMF, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today? IMF, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today? IMF, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today?
We blocked off — successfully blocked off and kept delegates from going into three — down three entrances into Lafayette Park.
Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets!
One cluster of the activists with the Mobilization for Global Justice have taken control of the intersection peacefully, by locking themselves together.
I’m here because I passionately believe that global capitalism is destroying our planet and it’s destroying communities.
People of the South, kick the World Bank out! People of the South, kick the World Bank out! People of the South, kick the World Bank out!
The sounds of the Mobilization for Social Justice this weekend, brought to you by the Independent Media Center and all the folks who are there. We’ll be talking about those who produced this segment and what this new phenomenon is. The IMC, that is here in Washington, D.C., was set up in Seattle for the protest against the World Trade Organization and actually began a few years ago at the Democratic Convention, where it’s headed in the next few months, to Philadelphia for the Republican Convention and to Los Angeles for the Democratic Convention.
You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman in Washington, D.C., in Pacifica Radio’s Washington studios of WPFW, as we came to the nation’s capital for this massive protest this weekend that continues today with attempts to block off the World Bank and the IMF. Actually, the police have done that, but protesters are outside, as we just heard from the legal observer, Zack Wolfe.
But we don’t just want to deal with the clashes between police and protesters, but the underlying issue of why these protesters — estimates range between 10,000 and 20,000 — came to Washington, D.C. over this past week. The protests actually began about two weeks ago with the mobilization against the School of the Americas at Fort Benning. And then the activities increased until last weekend, on Sunday, when there was a major rally against debt, the debt that supposedly the Western world says the third world owes to the West, and then activities through the week leading to this last days’ events.
To begin today’s program, we’re joined by Dennis Brutus. He is one of the leaders of the movement to fight the debt. He is a former political prisoner in South Africa. He was on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela. He is a world-renowned poet and now with Jubilee 2000. We welcome you to Democracy Now!
Thank you, Amy. Glad to be with you.
Well, this last week of your life, what has it been like for you? I’ve seen you for years at Fifty Years is Enough Campaign events or for a few years, where a couple hundred people come to educate themselves about these abstract international issues. But this is a whole new level, what people are calling a revolution.
Well, certainly there is so much more passion, so much more determination. The word “mobilization” and the whole response to the notion of a globalizing process of corporate globalization that we are resisting. And what’s astonishing, of course, is that it involves billions, not just millions, because all over Asia, Africa, Latin America, people are organizing, whether it’s against the debt issue or the other problems of the World Bank and the IMF, such as what are called SAPs, or structural adjustment programs. But there is, for one, a kind of determination, which is coupled also with an understanding that what’s happening in our time is this globalizing process where the corporations are trying to take over the world and dictate an agenda in which profits are always more important than people.
You can see people on the streets yelling, and they’re saying, “Whose streets? Our streets!” because they are asserting this is everybody’s world. It’s not just the world of the corporations in control. And, of course, the police, unfortunately, and later on, no doubt, the military, will be there in defense of the corporations, functioning in their defense. And that’s why we see thousands right up at the barricades outside the World Bank, outside the IMF yesterday. We marched through the streets of Washington. We were on the Ellipse you know. People from Ecuador, Nicaragua, from Zimbabwe, Zambia, across the world, all united, because we need a globalized resistance to a globalized oppression.
Coming up in our last segment, we’re going to be talking with some musicians from a group called Seize the Day, who sang at yesterdays rally. But they’re more than musicians who sing songs about biotechnology and Monsanto and other issues. They themselves are activists who have been arrested as they pull up crops that have been put into test sites that were biotechnologically engineered. And they’ve gone to court, and they’re part of a major movement in Europe that’s been fighting biotechnology.
By the same token, on this issue of debt and this issue of understanding what the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank does abroad, the US has been, in terms of the US population, much less aware, perhaps because they’re not the, quote, "beneficiaries" of these programs, but that’s what’s changed now. This is happening on the streets of the US and with — there’s a lot of international presence, but there are thousands of US citizens who are taking up this call.
Oh, very much so. And, of course, you can’t really blame people if they don’t know, because, for instance, in Seattle, people were shocked to discover that the WTO existed. There were people saying, “What is the WTO?” World Trade Organization, writing an agenda for the whole world. So people in the United States are beginning to understand, and I think, even more significantly, they’re beginning to ally with the people in the third world and other parts of the world.
I want to talk about what happened Saturday, because that’s part of this joining of the movement from the US to Europe, to Africa, to Asia and Latin America. 700 people got arrested on Saturday. They were mainly young people, and we’re going to hear some of their voices tomorrow. They were marching, thinking that they were just doing a preliminary march into Sunday. They were marching against the prison-industrial complex in this country, also calling for the fair trial of and support for Mumia Abu-Jamal. They did not think they were doing anything illegal, but the police moved in, set up certain wedges, and suddenly they were all under arrest. To show the youth of this crowd, a number of them had to be put into another facility because they were minors. But they see the prison-industrial complex in this country — kept repeating that number, two million people in prison, highest per capita population in prison of anywhere in the world — as a reflection of or a parallel to what the World Bank and the IMF does in other countries, and that’s marginalize the poorest of the society.
Right, because you now have prisoners working in the way that you would normally have people in a shoe factory or a T-shirt factory or whatever. But, in fact, you can reduce the cost of production, of course, if you can take that job into the prisons and use prison labor, instead of regular labor in industry. But, of course, this is really a parallel of what we are experiencing in Africa, in Asia, countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere, where the labor is not only cheap labor, and very often it’s women and children working long hours, but in fact, curiously, the United States government has trade publications encouraging industry in the US to move into these countries so they can get the same work done more cheaply.
Talk about your homeland, South Africa, Dennis Brutus, poet, freedom fighter in South Africa, again, imprisoned at Robben Island, now here in the United States, why the debt is so significant in southern Africa.
Right. And, of course, we’ve had a very specific experience, because apartheid was all about using cheap labor, whether it was in the gold mines, the diamond mines, factories, Ford, GM, the other corporations that were in there. So now we have a new kind of apartheid, and they’re talking now of a global apartheid, where the world is divided into rich and poor, more billionaires on the one hand, more beggars on the other hand. So in South Africa, we had a marvellously clear and, in fact, very honest declaration. They were interested in cheap labor, and the factories would come in because they could use cheap labor. That process is now becoming globalized. In the conference in Havana now, where the Group of Seven are meeting, they’ve actually used the term: we are now experiencing global apartheid.
In your country, South Africa, some have criticized the leadership, saying that they are accepting the debt, not fighting it.
I wish we had time to go into more detail. As you know, other countries had what was called an SAP, structural adjustment program, imposed on them by the World Bank. South Africa, absurdly, developed its own SAP under Trevor Manuel and people like that who went to the World Bank offering themselves, like lambs going to the slaughter. And, of course, what it has meant is the debt is being paid to the World Bank at the time when schools and hospitals, even houses, are not being built. But the priority is to please the World Bank external and internal debt, and the people are suffering. So, many of us are deeply disappointed to see that South Africa, that emerged out of that terrible system under which I was imprisoned with thousands of others, we come out of South African local apartheid and now we’re entering into global apartheid.
We just have a minute, but where do you see this movement that is clearly growing by, to say the least, leaps and bounds? Where do you see it going? Do you see that African countries, for example, will be able to wipe out their debt simply by saying, we’ve paid our debt in other ways?
I think that’s part of the process. We have to seize the day. I think we got the momentum in Seattle. We’re now developing it in Washington. We’ll be doing it at the time of the G7 in July. We’ll be doing it when the UN meets in the General Assembly in New York in September. So this is building momentum. But it’s more than Africa; it’s literally a global movement, because it’s Asia, it’s Latin America, it’s the Caribbean. And I think we can actually come up with a whole new world framework in which people will be more important than profits.
Dennis Brutus, South African poet living here in the United States. If people want to get in touch with Jubilee 2000, the group with which you work, where can they call or go on the web?
Right. Well, we have an office right here in Washington of what we call the Fifty Years is Enough Movement, which is connected with the Mobilization for Global Justice. The address is 1247 E Street, South East, and that’s the office. I’m not sure I have a phone number.
Well, we will put the phone number on our website at www.democracynow.org or pacifica.org, as we will put the website, as well, which is www.50years.org. Dennis Brutus, thank you for being with us.
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