who will be next World Bank President What will they do


Bring in the police. Peter McPherson - one of the leading candidates for World Bank president - provoked an interesting Bank-related furore a few years back.

As head of Michigan State University, he sanctioned police infiltration of a student group planning to protest at the university's 2000 commencement speech. The speaker? None other than... James Wolfensohn.

McPherson approved the undercover investigation of the MSU branch of United Students Against Sweatshops (the branch call itself Students for Economic Justice).

The group, which included veterans of various anti-globalization protests, was infliltrated by Officer James Gonzales, who had instructions to find out whether violence was planned. According to police, there was no wrongdoing and the officer was pulled out.

When the story broke, McPherson described it as "a classic issue in a democracy" - the need to balance freedom and security.

Some members of MSU faculty were unsure that balance had been properly struck. 59 wrote to him to denounce the decision:

"As faculty, we were appalled to learn that the MSU police sent an undercover officer to infiltrate a student organization. We find this contrary to basic principles of political association and free speech.

"The use of undercover police in organizations that are engaging in legal and important political discussions is an intimidating and unjustifiable intrusion into the exercise of political rights."

See also, this interesting assessment of McPherson's time at MSU by Daniel Howes of Detroit News.

David Steven ~ February 11, 2005

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