THE WHITE HOUSE (FinalCall.com) – Tens of thousands of protestors–from as far away as Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, as well as from D.C. and neighboring Maryland and Virginia–marched, encircling the compound here in the first major international day of action in opposition to the U.S. backed-Israeli military aggression against Lebanon.
“Justice is our demand. There’ll be no peace on stolen land,” demonstrators chanted and clapped. “Stop the U.S.-Israeli war against Lebanon and Palestine,” others shouted.
The demonstration was initiated by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, the Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom Foundation and the National Council of Arab Americans (NCA), as well as the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The organizers estimate that more than 30,000 demonstrators filled the streets, and reported that more than 150 buses brought the mostly Muslim and Arab-American participants into town.
“Mr. Bush: Stop calling Islam ‘Islamic fascism,’” said Esam Omesh, president of the Muslim American Society. The crowd roared its approval. There is no such thing, he continued, “just as there is no such thing as Christian fascism.” Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark also elicited a cheer when he called for Mr. Bush’s impeachment.
Pres. Bush was not in town; he was completing his summer vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and Congress was not in session. Still, the event was the largest demonstration in this country since the commencement of the Israeli bombing campaign of Lebanon and Gaza in mid-July, according to the organizers.
“What I think what we were able to do today was have the first real demo, that was planned and carried out in support of the people of Palestine, and the people of Lebanon, and the people who are being brutalized by Israeli terrorism and aggression,” Eugene Puryear, a spokesman for the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, told The Final Call. “I think we’ve been able to open up a new voice in this country, and open up a new front in this struggle and combat the one-sided nature of information coming out of the Middle East.”
In addition, organizers insist that 10,000 more protestors gathered at the San Francisco Civic Center, and another 5,000 marched in Los Angeles, including members of the anti-war movement and other progressive activists.
“It is critical that the people of the United States–the country that is providing the bombs falling on our Brothers and Sisters in Lebanon and Palestine–have joined in mass demonstration activity to make it clear to this government that it cannot continue on its brutal path of war and conquest,” said Richard Becker, western regional coordinator of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition in a statement. “We have taken to the streets today to send a message to the people of the world, and especially the people of the Middle East, that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice do not act in our names.”
Hundreds of red-white-and-green Lebanese flags waved throughout the crowd, along with flags from Palestine, Iran and even Venezuela, as demonstrators demanded an immediate ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
“We came with seven buses from Ohio. We drove all night,” said Julia Shearson, director of the Cleveland, Ohio chapter of CAIR, according to a published report. “We’re very frightened of the escalation in this conflict,” Ms. Shearson continued.
Speakers, including Dr. Clovis Maksoud, former ambassador from the Arab League to the United Nations, condemned the actions of Israel and the United States, which they described as an occupation, and proclaimed solidarity with the civilians caught in the crossfire of the conflicts in the Middle East.
Many of the people who turned out were families with personal ties to Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East. Some paused after the march, forming lines, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, facing the Holy City Mecca for Salatul-Asr, the early-afternoon prayer.