An Oral History of the A16 Demonstrations against Global Capitalism
CrimethInc. | April 14, 2022
On April 16, 2000, tens of thousands of people gathered in Washington, DC to mobilize against the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. This was one of a series of Global Days of Action against neoliberal capitalist institutions including the G8, the World Trade Organization, and the IMF/World Bank. At the time, opponents of these organizations were loosely described as the anti-globalization or alter-globalization movement; later, as the global justice movement.
While resistance to those institutions dates back to their founding at the end of the Second World War, this movement was arguably launched by the Zapatistas, a revolutionary insurgency in Chiapas, Mexico. The Zapatistas appeared on the world stage in an armed insurrection against the government of Mexico beginning on January 1, 1994, the day that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect—a trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States that bankrupted 1.3 million Mexican farmers.
People’s Global Action emerged from the Intercontinental Gathering of the Zapatistas encuentro in 1996. This provided a framework for organizing against neoliberal trade institutions, drawing together thousands of grassroots organizations, affinity groups, and anarchist collectives. These motley radicals were joined by traditional labor unions, environmental groups, Non-Governmental Organizations, nonprofits, and individual activists. It was a big umbrella, rife with contradictions, riven by messy debates about tactics and strategy, inclusion and identity, violence and non-violence. The goals of the participants ran the gamut from reforming neoliberalism to destroying capitalism.
After the world-famous demonstrations that shut down the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle in November 1999, preparations for the IMF/World Bank meeting in April 2000 spread the momentum to the East Coast, showing that the events in Seattle were not an anomaly but a stage in the emergence of a powerful movement. In a series of spokescouncils, protesters planned to shut DC down with blockades; in the end, the police effectively conceded the city to protestors by shutting down a massive portion of downtown themselves.
The following oral history brings together the experiences and voices of some of the participants in the actions of A16.