WASHINGTON -- A dwindling band of protesters confronted a steady rain and police reinforcements today, seeking in vain to paralyze the business district and shut down international finance meetings. There were sporadic clashes with officers in riot gear.
By daybreak, authorities already had spirited most of the conference delegates by bus to the meeting site in the heart of downtown. And a feared massive traffic jam didn't immediately materialize as many federal workers followed the advice of superiors and took the day off.
But the morning wasn't problem-free for District of Columbia police, who brought in some National Guard troops to assist in handling the crowds of protesters. At one intersection, helmeted police fired pepper spray to disperse demonstrators who were trying to storm barricades. Some protesters donned gas masks.
''There was a convoy of delegates that got trapped by the crowds and the officers were trying to get them out,'' said Police Chief Charles Ramsey.
Police said 60 demonstrators were taken into custody and loaded onto a school bus, but the charges against them weren't immediately known. Several hundred were arrested Saturday and a few dozen on Sunday.
Others attempted to throw themselves at police vehicles today, and their mood remained defiant.
''We sent a message that business as usual will not happen at these neocolonial, neoliberal institutions any more,'' said Dorothee Benz, 35, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Still, the protests were much smaller than those over the weekend intended to disrupt the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings. Several hundred demonstrators were gathering at the Ellipse on the National Mall, within sight of the White House, for a planned noon rally. President Clinton was out of town.
Some of them had marched earlier through the streets of the central city, chanting, ''Whose streets? Our streets,'' banging plastic buckets and carrying a variety of flags and banners. One read ''animal rights activists say no to globalization.''
Mayor Anthony Williams said officials anticipated ''some ratcheting up'' of the confrontations with protesters as the day wore on.
''Our intent is to keep this under control, to keep it peaceful and to get through this,'' Williams said.
In an effort to keep problems to a minimum, the federal government closed its agencies in the potential protest zone, an 11-by-8-block swath east and west of the White House. Both the federal and local governments encouraged all but essential workers to stay home on leave.
At least 70 National Guard personnel in camouflage gear took up positions as reinforcements early today near the World Bank and International Monetary Fund buildings in the center of town.
On Sunday, many more demonstrators paraded through the capital in a show of celebration and anger, punctuated by occasional confrontations.
Festive street theater with giant puppets coexisted with confrontations between police trying to keep the streets open and the finance meetings safe and protesters agitating about the plight of the poor and ''decadence'' of the rich.
At one point, police in riot gear and on motorcycles charged into a crowd that had surged toward the police line. Police used pepper spray and what they said were smoke bombs to drive back the protesters, who were convinced they'd been tear-gassed.
But unlike the protests that overwhelmed police and smashed windows in rainy Seattle to disrupt and block trade meetings late last year, the weekend demonstrations were largely nonviolent on a hot, sunny Sunday.
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