Police fear that some of the protests, led by veterans of riots against the World Trade Organization, will turn violent.
Meanwhile, a far different Patriots Rally For America will also take place (see below).
At a joint press conference Tuesday outlining their plans for the weekend, Eric LeCompte of School of the Americas Watch, which protests Pentagon links with Latin American militaries, was described as someone who has been arrested "many times.” He said his group would march on the Capitol to protest U.S. support for the war against terrorism in Colombia.
Organizers distributed maps of downtown Washington showing how different groups of protesters would unite in the "April mobilizations” to run from Friday night through Monday. Protesters will stage "die-ins” and attempt blockades of various sites and buildings as part of their plan for "direct action.”
Something called "Anti-Capitalist Bloc” had planned protests against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who had been scheduled to be in the nation’s capital to speak to American Israel Public Affairs Committee. However, his trip was canceled because of the Middle East crisis, and he will speak via satellite hook-up.
In another indication of pro-Palestinian sentiment on the part of the protesters, Emad Fraitekh of Committee in Solidarity With the Palestinian People was a featured speaker at the press conference. A biography said he was "in contact” with officials of the Palestinian Authority of Yasser Arafat.
Fraitekh, who demanded that all aid to Israel be terminated, was said to be a journalist from the West Bank. However, he has been in the U.S. since the early 1990s writing for publications such as Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
But the thrust of Tuesday’s news conference was more anti-American than anti-Israel. President Bush was frequently attacked and given no credit at all for directing a successful war on terrorism.
In their search for allies, the organizers have embraced communists and their fellow travelers. A key organizer, Terra Lawson-Remer, who orchestrated the news conference, refused to disavow the involvement of Communist Party USA in what is billed as the "April 20th Mobilization” to "Stop the War.”
"I can’t speak to that,” she said when asked about CPUSA's endorsement of the protest. However, her Web site (www.unitedwemarch.org) lists not only CPUSA but several other communist, socialist and Marxist groups as endorsers of the street demonstrations.
Other backers include National Network to End the War Against Iraq, Queers for Racial and Economic Justice, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and the Nude Forest Frolicking Party of America.
Attempting to exploit the memory of a popular Democrat president, the press conference was supposed to have been held on the grounds of a federal memorial in honor of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But Park Police moved the event outside, causing a delay of 10 minutes in getting the event under way.
Speaking before reporters and television camera crews representing Fox News, CNN and other major media, Lawson-Remer and her comrades insisted they were for freedom, "democracy" and non-violence. However, published reports identify Lawson-Remer as a Yale University student who was one of hundreds arrested during the WTO riots in Seattle in 1999.
The other speakers were Robert Weissman of Mobilization for Global Justice and Roxanne Lawson of United We March.
None of the speakers, in their opening remarks, condemned the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America. Instead, they condemned President Bush’s war on terrorism and his efforts to find, destroy or prosecute those responsible. Only later, under questioning, did they denounce anti-American terrorism.
LeCompte insisted it was the U.S. government that was training "assassins, dictators and death squad leaders” at the School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, in Georgia. The institute trains Latin American soldiers in military affairs.
Though many groups involved in the protests are left-wing, Marxist or even anarchist, Weissman represented the more traditionally liberal Democrat elements.
Saying former Vice President Al Gore had given the go-ahead to attack the Bush administration on issues other than the war, Weissman, who is also co-director of Essential Action, a group founded by Ralph Nader, said he would field several hundred protesters to disrupt weekend meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The AFL-CIO, led by John Sweeney of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), has participated in Weissman’s Mobilization for Global Justice demonstrations in the past. This time, the labor federation is keeping its distance from the controversial protests. However, DSA is backing them.
Lawson, who denounced the "Bush policy of endless war,” is a former field researcher for Children’s Defense Fund, whose board included Hillary Clinton. She also represents "Black Voices for Peace” and the "D.C. Anti-War Network.”
Using the FDR memorial as a prop caused some embarrassment when a reporter asked her about Roosevelt's record of interning Japanese-Americans and mobilizing the nation to win World War II.
Lawson, who had earlier praised FDR for his commitment to "freedom, equal justice and opportunity,” agreed that he was a "problematic” historical figure responsible for a "racist” policy. She said that her associates had debated whether to even hold the event at the FDR memorial.
There will also be quite a different gathering this weekend in Washington: Patriots Rally For America.
"This rally will be a family-friendly event to show support for America and for the men and women of our Armed Forces," says the Web site of Rally For America, which is co-sponsoring the event along with the D.C. chapter of Free Republic.
The event is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Washington Monument, with music beginning at 10 a.m. Scheduled speakers include former Rep. Bob Dornan, R-Calif., Niger Innis of Congress of Racial Equality, Maria Heil of Second Amendment Sisters and Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch.
"This will be a great opportunity to peacefully counter the anti-war rally and march being held the same day in other areas of D.C. by the usual collection of America-hating communist/leftist/anarchist groups," says the Web site.
"The survival of America is at stake in the war on terrorism. We cannot, and will not, allow the America-hating left to take to the streets unanswered, as happened during the Vietnam conflict. We refuse to let a vocal minority infect our country's morale during this critical time in our nation's history. This war is different in that the front lines drawn by the enemy are on our streets - where we live and work."
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