Washington Post report on April 20

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Apr 21 06:58:53 MDT 2002

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 marches.

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, 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 bandanas over their faces 
marching alongside Muslim mothers wrapped in traditional headdress 
and pushing baby strollers.

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 conference.

District police officials 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 weathered 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 the 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.


Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 04/21/2002

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