Sunday, October 29, 2000

Police prepare for trade-meeting protests

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When more than 100 CEOs of top American and European companies gather in Cincinnati next month to discuss world trade, police plan to be prepared for the protesters expected to fol low.

        Most of those objecting to the Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue promise to be peaceful. But the city's police officers, with help from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, say they will be poised to mobilize during the Nov. 16-18 event in case the city sees a repeat of the violence at similar meetings in other cities.

  • What: TransAtlantic Business Dialogue
  • Established: In 1995 at conference in Seville, Spain.
  • Founders: 100 U.S. and EU CEOs, and government representatives including the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and the European Commissioners for Trade and Industry.
  • Goal: To contribute to the creation of a New Transatlantic Marketplace permitting goods and services to flow more easily across the Atlantic through removal of traditional trade and investment barriers such as excessive regulation and duplications and differences in EU and U.S. systems and procedures.
        “People have a constitutional right to protest peacefully,” said Capt. Vince Demasi, commander of the Cincinnati Police Division's District 1, which covers downtown. “They've as sured me that they're non-violent and I have no reason not to believe that. If not, we're well-trained in these things.”

        The TABD, formed five years ago, is designed to build closer ties among companies in Europe and America.

        Members of the group strive to boost trade and investment opportunities, while removing costly regulations.

        Critics, however, say some efforts to permit goods and services to flow more

        easily across the Atlantic violate human rights or damage the environment.

        In Seattle last year, police resorted to tear gas and rubber bullets during the World Trade Organization meeting while demonstrators looted and vandalized downtown buildings.

        More than 500 people were arrested and the city spent almost $10 million, most of it for extra policing. Things went better in April during a World Bank-International Monetary Fund summit in Washington, D.C.

Extra security
               Leaders from the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the Partnership for Greater Cincinnati worked two years and out-hustled 14 cities to bring TABD here, finally winning out over Miami, said Chamber spokesman Ray Buse.

        Officials at Lunken Airport and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport have planned special security to escort CEOs such as Steve Case of America Online downtown to the Omni Netherland Hotel. That is where most of the corporate leaders and government financial officials will stay for the three-day event focusing on improving world trade.

        Police officers are prepared to work 12-hour shifts.

        Other dignitaries expected: CEOs from Fed Ex, Estee Lauder and United Technologies Corp.; U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers; and European Union Commissioner for Trade Pascal Lamy.

        More than 120 CEOs plan to come, with the total attendance expected to top about 500, including government officials and aides. A significant number of international news media are expected, too.

        Protesters plan to use the event to showcase their beliefs that the TABD advocates total global economic control by only a few rich, powerful people and that it disregards human and animal life and the environment.

        Fliers advertising the TABD protests hang at universities and colleges all over the Midwest.

        On Thursday, at Ohio University in Athens, students attended a meeting in response to a flier that read “Come learn what the TABD is and why people will be converging in Cincy to greet them.”

        Internet sites list protesters looking for rides here from as far away as San Francisco.

        They plan to picket at the hotel as well as Union Terminal, where chamber officials have planned an exclusive dinner. Their fliers picture people wearing bandannas over their faces and arm bands with crossed-out swastikas.

        A puppet- and sign-making event was scheduled for this weekend. The puppets will be used during a Friday parade the week of the event that will close Fourth Street downtown for several hours. Street medic training is scheduled for next week.

Peaceful pledge
               Police have met with a local protest group, Coalition for a Humane Economy, whose leaders include Sister Alice Gerdeman of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Over-the-Rhine. The coalition is local, but she expects some out-of-towners to join.

        She said she wouldn't be surprised if the group grows to several hundred.

        She emphasized that the group will be non-violent and will not try more invasive tactics such as blocking the entrance to the Omni. Others from elsewhere might engage in what she called more “non-violent civil disobedience,” but she doesn't know that for sure.

        The coalition wants to call attention specifically to getting environmental laws written into trade agreements and to allowing ordinary citizens to have input in the trade process.

        The Chamber of Commerce and the city's business officials are concerned about avoiding any high-profile protests that could cloud the Queen City's image as it aims to represent itself as a location already global enough to handle such a conference.

        “We sure don't want to blow this,” said Ted Bushelman, spokesman for the Cincinnati- Northern Kentucky International Airport.

        “These are big companies,” he said. “These people can make decisions on whether or not to put a plant in your area.”

        Cliff Peale contributed to this report.


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