[saymaListserv] Fw: March on Washington
moriah at preferred.com
Wed Apr 24 11:16:17 JEST 2002
(forwarded -- a Friendly Nuisance list posting)
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, April 22, 2002 4:51 PM
Subject: March on Washington
Diane McNaron, who was at the march on Washington this weekend, sent
this. She says it's pretty accurate and feels the event was successful.
Demonstrators Rally to Palestinian Cause
Arab Americans, Supporters Drown Out Other Issues
By Manny Fernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 21, 2002; Page A01
Tens of thousands converged on downtown Washington
yesterday to demonstrate for a variety of causes, but it
was the numbers and passion of busloads of Arab Americans
and their supporters that dominated the streets.
Eager to make their presence felt and their voices heard
in the nation's capital as never before, Arab and Muslim
families marched and chanted for an end to U.S. military
aid to Israel, overwhelming the messages of those with
other causes in a peaceful day of downtown rallies and
Young men wore the Palestinian flag around their necks
like a cape. Arabic was heard nearly as often as English,
and cardboard signs held by women and children denounced
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Bush.
Protesters rallying against corporate wrongs and the
global economy found themselves tweaking Vietnam War-era
chants to the Palestinian cause, shouting, "One, two,
three, four: We don't want no Mideast war!"
"The message here is we must support the Palestinian
people against a military occupation and an apartheid
state," said Randa Jamal, a graduate student at New York's
Columbia University who joined thousands at a
pro-Palestinian rally near the White House. She said her
cousins were killed in Ramallah, in the West Bank, and her
16-year-old sister has been unable to attend school
because of the Israeli occupation. "What they are going
through," she said, "is crimes against humanity."
Palestinian rights was the theme of two of four permitted
marches that merged on Pennsylvania Avenue NW in a loud
and colorful procession to the Capitol. The host of other
issues -- anti-corporate globalization, antiwar and
anti-U.S. policies in several areas -- were boiled down to
an essence visible on banners, placards and T-shirts.
Banners read: "Drop debt, not bombs" and "Peace treaty in
Korea now." Bumper stickers on T-shirts declared: "No
blank check for endless war" and "We are all Palestinian."
It was possible to stand on the Washington Monument
grounds and hear simultaneous speeches from three rallies
nearby -- antiwar demonstrators, counter-demonstrators and
pro-Palestinian activists -- in a mind-boggling
surround-sound mix. Protesters came from the Anti-War
Committee in Minneapolis, Middlebury College in Vermont
and the D.C. chapter of the International Socialist
Organization. There were teenage anti-capitalists with
black bandannas over their faces marching alongside Muslim
mothers wrapped in traditional headdress and pushing baby
Other demonstrations are planned today and tomorrow near
the Washington Monument grounds and outside the Washington
Hilton, the site of a pro-Israel lobbying group's annual
District police said the crowds were larger than they had
anticipated and put the number at about 75,000. Metro
transit officials said ridership increased significantly
yesterday, but estimates would not be available until
today. Organizers of the Palestinian-rights rally at the
Ellipse said the gathering was the largest demonstration
for Palestine in U.S. history.
"We are here because we want to do something, to send a
message," said Amal K. David, a Palestinian American who
made a 12-hour trip in a 21-bus caravan from the Detroit
area to join the rally organized by International Answer,
an antiwar, anti-racism coalition that shifted the theme
of its protest as violence in the Middle East escalated.
In tears, David spoke of the destruction that
U.S.-financed Israeli weapons and tanks have done to
Palestinians, saying: "My beloved country is financing
such death and destruction. I am so ashamed."
Many pro-Palestinian marchers said they learned of the
march through their mosques. "All over the U.S., everybody
got the word," said Issam Khalil of the Bronx, who
traveled in a fleet of 50 buses from New York.
Several downtown blocks away, thousands of other
pro-Palestinian activists took to the streets for another
march to free Palestine. The group was made up mostly of
Arab Americans with relatives in the occupied territories
and U.S. Jews opposed to the occupation.
"The Palestinians here in the crowd look at us
mistrustfully at first," said Rabbi Yisroel Weiss, 45, of
New York. "But then they speak a few words with us, and
they show us respect and friendship." Weiss traveled to
Washington with several dozen Orthodox rabbis to join the
march, which left the Washington Hilton, joined
anti-globalization demonstrators outside the Foggy Bottom
headquarters of the World Bank and International Monetary
Fund and continued on the Capitol. He said his group
favored dismantling Israel and returning it to the
Buses carried Jewish supporters from Boston, Chicago, New
York and Philadelphia, among other places.
Organizers at the march privately urged participants to
strike swastikas from their posters, but few complied. It
was a running debate among many participants, though
several swastikas appeared on signs in reference to Sharon
by day's end.
Walking down the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue near the
Justice Department as thousands filled the street, D.C.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey praised the decorum of the
demonstrations. "The organizers did an outstanding job,"
said Ramsey, baton in hand. "If it stays this way, it will
be the best one we've ever had. . . . This is really what
protest ought to be."
By about 4 p.m., no major clashes had broken out between
police and protesters. The events were a stark contrast to
Washington demonstrations in April 2000, when protests
against the World Bank and IMF led to a virtual shutdown
of the downtown area and sparked clashes between police
and demonstrators that ended in mass arrests.
D.C. emergency officials said only two people were
transported for medical treatment, though neither case was
serious. Both were falls, one involving a police officer
and the other involving a civilian.
Ramsey said that in his view, yesterday's demonstrations
went smoothly because organizers worked closely with
police. At least three field marshals from the
pro-Palestinian side negotiated with Ramsey, then barked
instructions into their speaker-phones.
Hani Ahmed, 16, of the District was one of them, and he
was marching with a pro-Palestinian group that swelled the
ranks of the anti-globalization forces across from the
World Bank and the IMF. "That kid, he was only 16, and he
was working so well with us. That was one of the things
that made it work so well," Ramsey said. At one point, the
parade got to Dupont Circle, and marchers wanted to go
around the circle rather than through the tunnel, where
their permit instructed them to go.
Tashim Sallah, 45, of Buffalo told Ramsey and Executive
Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer that he was
worried that people would suffocate in the tunnel. Gainer
grabbed his hand and said, "We're going down with you.
There's no danger."
The group followed Ramsey and Gainer into the tunnel and
delighted in the cool shade and underground echo for their
That cooperation was in marked contrast to the first day
of demonstrations, when more than three dozen bike-riding
protesters were arrested downtown during a Friday evening
action at rush hour. All of the 41 people arrested were
released, a D.C. Superior Court official said.
Yesterday, though, no incidents of that nature occurred.
The only arrests came after most protesters had disbanded.
Police arrested 24 adults and one juvenile who were found
in a parking garage in the 1000 block of 13th Street NW.
All were charged with unlawful entry, a misdemeanor, and
police said they were scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow.
Police said they collected backpacks, a riot helmet and a
gas mask from the suspects, who were taken to the D.C.
police academy in Southwest Washington.
Members of the group who were not detained said the
demonstrators were not sleeping in the garage, as police
first said, but had parked two cars there for the day's
"They went back to the car to get food because they were
tired," said Jacob, 23, who drove from Baltimore for the
protests but would not give his last name. "We were going
to leave to go home."
Earlier, the day was marked only by little dramas on
street-corner stages among the tangle of protesters,
tourists, police and counter-demonstrators clogging
downtown on a humid, sticky afternoon. The atmosphere was
mostly civil and occasionally comedic, with brief flashes
of arguments or hostility.
About 1 p.m. at H and 16th streets NW, a small scuffle
broke out between members of the New Black Panther Party
and a man intent on disrupting them. A couple of dozen
members of the party showed up at the anti-globalization
rally wearing black masks and black military-style
uniforms. They had swastikas and shouted anti-Jewish
slogans. The scuffle amounted only to pushing and angry
remarks before members of the crowd broke them up.
A short time later, the Patriots Rally for America -- a
collection of counter-demonstrators that opposed the
United We March antiwar protesters with whom they shared
the Washington Monument grounds -- had heated up and was
getting protection from 10 police officers on horseback
and 13 more on foot.
At many points during the afternoon, D.C. police and
federal authorities enveloped the marches and rallies with
officers on foot and in cars, on horseback and on
bicycles. But their presence was less dominating than in
previous Washington demonstrations, and most officers were
not outfitted in riot gear. More than a few were spotted
at downtown intersections yawning or leaning on police
"That's the way we like it," Ramsey said. "They ought to
be low-key. People have a constitutional right to
The effect of the pro-Palestinian demonstrators became
evident when their smaller march joined anti-globalization
forces outside the World Bank and IMF.
The emotion of the Mideast conflict appeared to overpower
issues of economic fairness, and many of the signs and
chants called for freedom for Palestinians and the end of
U.S. sponsorship of Israel.
The Mobilization for Global Justice, which played a part
in organizing the day's activities, acknowledged that the
pro-Palestinian sentiment had overtaken its economic
issues. "It seems more important to the safety of the
world," said Mark Rickling, a Mobilization organizer. "But
we're all united on the issues of oppression. I'm just
floored by the amount of people here today."
By afternoon, the more militant forces of the
pro-Palestinian movement dominated, with swastikas and
anti-Sharon and anti-Bush slogans and banners.
Aside from handing out signs, organizers seemed to have
taken care of nearly every need of protesters, in an
ad-hoc way. One all-important telephone number --
202-462-9627 -- was inked onto many arms; it's the number
those arrested are to call.
Legal support was being provided at the number by a local
law collective, the National Lawyers Guild, and D.C.-based
Partnership for Civil Justice.
But yesterday, there were no confrontations or trouble
during the marches. There was even day care, a service
offered for many activist-parents by the
Anti-Authoritarian Babysitters Club.
A gentle rain started about 2:30 p.m. as marchers walked
along Pennsylvania toward the Capitol, but the sun broke
through about 3:15.
By then, most marchers were at the east end of the Mall,
and many had stopped to pray on the puddled ground.
Next came speeches and music and, as the light faded, the
protesters began drifting away, with only 100 or so still
on the Mall as a light rain began to fall at dusk.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company
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