- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Police arrested 37 protesters near the U.S. Capitol early yesterday for disrupting rush-hour traffic by kneeling in the middle of Constitution Avenue and later spent several tense hours controlling angry Palestinian supporters gathered outside the Washington Hilton and Towers, the site of a pro-Israel gathering.
The anti-Israel protest concluded three days of demonstrations that cost the District an estimated $5 million for police protection.
The first two days of marching and protesting were peaceful, but from the beginning, authorities were worried that yesterday the final day would be the most troublesome.
What concerned them most was a clash between pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israeli demonstrators outside the Hilton on Connecticut Avenue NW, where the American Israel Public Affairs Committee was in session.
At about 6:30 p.m., more than 500 Palestinian supporters, members of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Palestine, waving signs and flags crowded against police barricades a block away. Several bus loads of supporters arrived intermittently, with more expected to arrive as late as 10 p.m.
Police had closed a stretch of Connecticut Avenue NW just north of Dupont Circle and partitioned off the two side streets nearest the hotel. Manning the barricades were D.C. police officers, including police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.
The parade permit issued to the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Palestine was scheduled to expire at 11 p.m.
"We have about five hours here, and then it will be the end of a very long weekend," Chief Ramsey said at about 6 p.m.
The protesters, however, left early. Traffic was reopened on Connecticut Avenue shortly after 9:30 p.m., and only a few police cruisers with their lights flashing remained.
"My problem is not with the crowd," Chief Ramsey said. "I was never concerned with crowds. I was worried about security a bomb or something with all these highly charged issues."
Though the rally outside the Hilton last night was dominated by pro-Palestinian demonstrators, a smattering of pro-Israeli protesters were also on hand, creating friction to be dealt with by police.
One supporter of Israel, referring to the celebrations in some Muslim countries after the September 11 terrorist attacks, carried a sign that said: "Who remembers dancing in the street after 9-11?"
Three or four other demonstrators carrying Israeli flags and signs that read "Stop teaching hate," were shoved, spat on and verbally assaulted when they walked through the rally on Connecticut Avenue.
Police quickly came to the rescue, pulling the pro-Israeli group from the crowd and forming a shoulder-to-shoulder line of officers in riot gear across the 1800 block of Connecticut Avenue.
Assistant D.C. Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer appeared in front of the line moments later, assuring protest organizers that police were not trying to provoke protesters and ordered the line to "stand down."
The protest included street-theater demonstrations similar to those at the weekend demonstrations. In one, about half a dozen people marched in a circle, wearing cardboard tanks and airplanes hanging from their shoulders.
Some bore slogans such as "U.S. tax dollars pay for these" and "My other tank is an Apache."
As dusk fell, about 2,000 pro-Palestinian protesters remained around the hotel. Some erected a chicken-wire fence at Connecticut and Bancroft Place NW to separate themselves from dozens of police officers in riot gear.
A helicopter search light beamed from above as the crowd chanted "Free Palestine" and "This is what a police state looks like."
Several times, Chief Ramsey stopped to pose with protesters whose faces were hidden behind black bandanas. At one point, a man and a woman held small Israeli flags and had their picture taken with the protest as a backdrop.
Chief Gainer helped diffuse tensions when he stepped between a woman draped in an American flag and a man wearing a Palestinian flag as a bandana.
The cost of maintaining safety at the demonstrations this weekend added up quickly, police said. Chief Ramsey said the $5 million in security costs for the three days includes paying support staff and officers from neighboring jurisdictions, and installing surveillance cameras around the protest sites.
Those arrested in the morning were taken into custody by U.S. Park Police for obstructing traffic on the Capitol grounds, Park Police spokesman Lt. Dan Nichols said. Eighteen persons were arrested at the entrance to the Capitol at Delaware and Constitution avenues NE, and 19 were arrested at First Street and Constitution Avenue NE
Police allowed the anti-war protesters to march from the Washington Monument to Upper Senate Park without a permit, but blocked them when they got near the Capitol.
Many of those arrested were seen kneeling and sitting in front of entrances to the Capitol grounds before police took them into custody.

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