Wednesday, May 9, 2001

ADB Conference Logo

ADB critics
take to streets

'We might be angry but
we're not going to let it get
out of control'

By Jaymes K. Song
Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) - Asian Development Bank President Tadao Chino left a luncheon session and went into the street Wednesday to accept a petition from representatives of some 500 protesters marching on the bank's annual board of governor's meeting.

Chino met with three representatives who were allowed to pass police barriers fronting the Hawaii Convention Center where the sign-carrying, drum-banging demonstrators briefly halted a planned march through Waikiki.

As the protesters shouted "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. The ADB has got to go," the three activists from the Philippines, Laos and Thailand read to him a long statement about changes they are demanding in the ADB's policies of fighting poverty by funding projects such as dams and power plants.

Over and over again, Walden Bello, a professor at the University of the Philippines, would interrupt his reading of the statement to say: "Do you understand that, sir?"

In the end, Chino only listened to part of it for about 10 minutes before thanking the protesters and telling them that the ADB would consider their concerns.

As Chino left, Bello yelled, "You said the same thing during last year's ADB meeting in Thailand. We demand that you listen to us. You must agree to shut down destructive ADB projects."

ADB spokeswoman Ann Quon disagreed with Bello's comments that Chino's coming down to talk to the demonstrators amounted to a defeat.

"I think that we are open, we are here to listen and we welcome dialogue with all members of civil society," she said.

Led by a native Hawaiian blowing a conch shell, the marchers chanting "A-D-B is destructive," protesting bank policies they said promote poverty in Asia and the Pacific.

The mood before the march was festive, with people banging on drums and preparing signs aimed at the 3,000 delegates to the bank's annual board of governors meeting.

Some 500 demonstrators took part in the march, said Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue.

Organizers informed participants of their legal rights and told them not to speak to police nor provoke confrontations. Several dozen plainclothes police officers wearing aloha shirts and flower leis escorted the marchers.

"If anything goes down it will be the police who instigate it," said a protester who identified himself as Frank Black. "Everyone here I talked to has been stressing nonviolent peaceful action."

Black, who wore a helmet, goggles and a black bandana across his nose and mouth to protect against tear gas, said he belonged to the local chapter of a group called Refuse and Resist.

"We're here with our banners and chants and we have something to say," he said. "We might be angry but we're not going to let it get out of control."

The demonstrators, including local union members and Hawaiian sovereignty supporters, had the Ala Moana Beach Park virtually to themselves as they gathered Wednesday morning. Beachgoers and tourists apparently heeded advisories about traffic congestion and street closings. Traffic in the area, the most congested in the state, was light for a weekday.

Demonstrators were as diverse as their reasons for marching, but most said the ADB's poverty programs hurt poor people instead of lifting them out of poverty.

"The ADB in our view is an institution of international finance that furthers this corporate globalization that disempowers people and puts wealthy elites in control," said Erik Haunold, member of ILWU, Local 142.

The demonstrators were marching along Waikiki's main throroughfare, Kalakaua Avenue, to Kapiolani Park, for an afternoon rally against ADB policies and in support of native Hawaiian causes.

Hundreds of state, city and federal law enforcement officers and private security guards were stationed along the protest route, with state officials mindful of large-scale protests that have disrupted international policy gatherings since the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.

Last year's ADB Bank meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand, drew 2,000 protesters against a huge wastewater treatment project near Bangkok.

In Honolulu, several businesses neighboring the convention center closed for the day and boarded their windows and doors. Most businesses remained open, but carefully monitored the demonstrators outside.

Water-filled anti-riot barricades and security guards in Polynesian print vests surrounded the glass-faced convention center, which security officials feared would be vulnerable to attack.

The Honolulu Police Department is spending an estimated $4 million to $7 million for security for the conference.

The police chief said it was money well spent.

"I don't think you can overprepare," Donohue said.

But the "March for Global Justice and Indigenous Rights" drew far fewer than the maximum 7,000 participants allowed in a city permit. ADBwatch member Matt MacKenzie said protesters gave the high estimate to be on the safe side but expected the crowd to total "hundreds."

Protesters set to present petitions demanding specific changes in bank-financed projects and complaining about "the way Honolulu has been militarized for this particular conference," said Shalmali Guttal of the Thailand-based group Focus on the Global South.

Asian Development Bank

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