- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2006

Protesters shouting “Free Lebanon” and “Free Palestine” marched yesterday around the White House to protest the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

The group began the protest at about noon on Lafayette Square, in front of the White House, where a long line of speakers railed against what they called an unjust war waged by the United States and Israel against the Palestinians and Lebanese.

“The working people in the United States are spoon-fed the propaganda that every time Israel drops a bomb, it’s an act of retaliation … and that every time an Arab person resists, that person is automatically a terrorist,” said Brian Becker, national coordinator for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) coalition, a co-organizer of the rally.

“Israel is dropping the bombs, but it’s George Bush and the U.S. government that not only has given them the green light, but are equal partners in this genocide they’re waging,” Mr. Becker said to the cheering crowd, which was largely Muslim.

Gloria Harb, 59, who came in from Ann Arbor, Mich., stood outside the White House with a sign reading “Israel’s Hold on Congress Must End.”

“I was naive about America,” said Miss Harb, who is of Palestinian descent. “But the fact is that we support Israel with their bombing of Lebanon. … It’s a war crime what’s happening in Gaza. If they wanted to reduce terrorism after September 11, all they had to do was tell the settlers to get out of the West Bank. That would’ve defused about 70 to 80 percent of the anger against America.”

Mr. Bush, who was not in the White House, spent yesterday at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Authorities do not give crowd estimates, but the number of protesters was less than the 10,000 that organizers expected.

Uniformed officers guarded the march route around the White House. Though some officers wore helmets, none was outfitted in riot gear. Streets were blocked through midday, and the Metropolitan Police Department activated its 19 surveillance cameras in the city’s downtown area.

U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Fear reported no arrests or other problems and said most of the crowd had dispersed by midafternoon.

The protesters were met at 15th Street and New York Avenue Northwest by a handful of counterdemonstrators holding signs that read “Jesus — King of the Jews” and saying Islam is a “religion of murder” that “decapitates Americans for no other reason than because they are Americans.”

“There are no terrorists other than Muslim terrorists!” the counterdemonstrators also shouted through megaphones.

“What about Oklahoma City?” the demonstrators yelled back.

The sides exchanged hostile and obscenity-laced taunts during a few tense moments, but police kept them separated and the march continued without incident.

This was the second protest in the past six months in the District against U.S. involvement in the Middle East.

Similar protests were held yesterday in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In Los Angeles, about 200 people protested in the downtown, also less than the thousands expected. The group was met by counterdemonstrators but no incidents were reported, according to KABC-TV News.

However, in San Francisco, hundreds of demonstrators and counterdemonstrators rallied side by side, separated by metal barricades and dozens of police officers. By noon, there had been several minor skirmishes but no arrests, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

In the District, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark called for the removal of the president and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and said the administration has made the country more enemies “than in the rest of our history combined.”

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