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DC Guard ready to help control protesters

by Master Sgt. Bob Haskell

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 30, 2002) -- About 512 members of the District of Columbia National Guard mustered Sept. 27 to support metropolitan and federal police forces during the weekend's annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Thousands of protesters threatened to disrupt the meetings and shut down the city by tying up traffic. They were reported to be protesting against the Bush administration's environmental policies, the World Bank and "corporate greed," and the possibility of a war against Iraq.

Police arrested more than 500 protesters by early evening Sept. 27, according to civilian media reports. Most of those arrested failed to disperse when ordered to do so or otherwise disobeyed instructions from police on the scene. However, other infractions were more serious, including setting automobile tires aflame and rolling them into traffic, and breaking the windows of a downtown commercial bank. A small group of protestors with firearms and explosives was apprehended Sept. 28.

The Guard troops were on duty to support a security force reported by the Associated Press to total 3,200 police officers, including 1,700 from across the country. District of Columbia citizen-soldiers pulled similar duty during demonstrations against world financial leaders in April 2000.

Guard soldiers were ready to help man the security perimeter around the institutions, located two blocks from the White House, and were organized into a reactionary force to help deal with disturbances wherever they might occur, said Capt. Sheldon Smith, a DC National Guard spokesman.

While the guardsmen were prepared to assist with crowd control, they were not needed, said Lt. Col. Kenneth Willons, executive officer, 75th Troop Support Command, D.C. National Guard. Most of the activated reservists were released late Sept. 29, with the rest slated to go home Sept. 30.

(Editor's note: Master Sgt. Bob Haskell is a senior correspondent for the National Guard Bureau.)

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