Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected to flock to the District next month to protest what organizers call a war by the United States and Israel against the Palestinians and Lebanese.

The “National Emergency March” on Aug. 12 is being organized by a coalition of Arab-American and U.S. peace groups.

“What you will see will literally be a sea of human protesters surrounding the White House,” said Brian Becker, national coordinator of the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition. “I expect tens of thousands to come to Washington, D.C., to confront the Bush administration about the policy in the Middle East.”

He announced the protest at a press conference yesterday, even as al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, called on Muslims to rise up in a holy war, or jihad, in response to the conflict in Lebanon.

When asked by The Washington Times whether representatives of the groups were willing to condemn al-Zawahri’s idea of a global jihad, Mr. Becker replied, “I don’t think there are any supporters of al Qaeda here.”

Organizers said protesters will rally against Bush administration support of a war against Muslims to keep control of the Middle East oil supply.

“It seems the Middle East burns while [Secretary of State] Condoleezza [Rice] fiddles,” said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation. “It’s a very dangerous and very ominous signal to Muslims throughout the world.”

The Aug. 12 rally will begin at noon in front of the White House, Mr. Becker said.

“People throughout the world need to understand that this war is not supported by the American people,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, co-founder of Partnership for Civil Justice.

Other groups involved in the protest are the National Council of Arab-Americans and Ministers for Social and Economic Justice.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who was a member of the defense team for deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, described Lebanon as “a beautiful country” of mountains, trees, beaches and great universities that is being destroyed by “a supreme international crime, a war of aggression.”

“All you see is violence, violence, violence. … Every man, woman and child in Lebanon is being punished by this aggression. … We’ve made more enemies than you can imagine. … Our policies are abominable, terrible, impeachable,” said Mr. Clark, who just returned from the Middle East.

Mounzer Sleiman, a policy analyst for the National Council of Arab-Americans who recently returned from Lebanon, described the destruction of power plants, roads, bridges, businesses and homes.

“Fifty-five percent of the injured in hospitals are children,” Mr. Sleiman said.

“America has fallen into a trap, a trap to destroy Lebanon and the Lebanese people,” Mr. Sleiman said.

The ANSWER Coalition organized a similar protest in Washington in April 2002. Mr. Becker said 100,000 protesters came out to support the Palestinians.

• Nathan Bomey contributed to this article.

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