Protesters ‘Reclaim the Streets'

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In a mass demonstration against globalization last night, approximately 500 protesters carried torches and signs, burned an effigy and danced wildly in an effort to "reclaim the streets."

Activists on foot and bicycle congregated in the intersection of Center Street and Shattuck Avenue for a "street party" where they articulated their opposition to globalization in solidarity with protests going on in Prague.

Approximately two people were arrested for property destruction and, if there are no legal complications, they should be released before this morning, said Berkeley police Capt. William Pittman.

A man identifying himself as Marcus announced the purpose of the event by yelling through a megaphone.

"We are here to retake the streets, which were ours to begin with," he said. "We are localizing protests against the IMF and the World Bank - we are fighting against the symptoms of an economy where the rich get richer and the poor get screwed."

Several protesters said they came to rally for bicycle rights in addition to the fight against corporatization.

"I am committed to anti-carism," said Chris King, a Berkeley local. "Cars are an abomination on our planet because they destroy the air that we breathe - what is more important than protecting that?"

Protesters wearing cloth over their faces burned a 10-foot-tall effigy of a money-waving capitalist, climbed atop street lights and uprooted newspaper racks. To the shock of open-mouthed onlookers, they scrawled anarchy signs and anti-capitalist messages on the street with colored chalk while chanting messages such as, "This is what democracy looks like."

"This is about fighting corporate power and corruption," said Jake Horwitz, a Berkeley resident. "The World Bank devastates so many Third World countries and we are speaking out against that."

Other activists said they came for more specific reasons.

"I am from a group that is trying to put pressure on Al Gore to do something about Occidental Petroleum trying to take away the cloud forest of a group of indigenous people in Columbia," said Shiras, a man wearing a rubber Gore mask who declined to disclose his last name. "You can't say that you are an environmentalist and write a book on it and then do nothing when these people are being taken off their land."

Several protesters said that they came out of a sense of obligation.

"I am here because I believe in some moral responsibility," said Nick Rizzo, a 15-year-old Berkeley resident. "I have lived in Berkeley all my life and it is a matter of luck that I was born in this country with the rights that I have. I could have been born in Mozambique or India where I don't have those rights."

Many UC Berkeley students said that participating in the protest was inspired by the principles behind the school's rich history.

"If there is anything that my education at Cal has taught me, it is to oppose those who would impose on my freedoms, namely global financial institutions," said Zachary Nelson, a UC Berkeley senior.

For others, the aim of the event was much more simple.

"I am here because partying in the street is a great way to overthrow the system," said Peter Ralph, another UC Berkeley student.

Police officers, who anticipated the protest from posters publicizing it, blockaded Shattuck.

"We are giving them the opportunity to say what they have to say, and as long as they don't vandalize or hurt people, that's okay," said Berkeley police Lt. Stephanie Fleming. "We are not about to rush into a crowd of 500 people over a couple newspaper racks. They are being pretty reasonable."

For a few, the sense of community at the event was so overwhelming that they found it hard to describe.

"I am at a loss for words," said Chris Kawas, a Berkeley activist. "I am so full of emotion right now."


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