New York Arab-Americans Protest Iraq War

Over 1,000 Arab-Americans rallied Saturday along Broadway in downtown New York to protest the US-led war on Iraq in the first large-scale demonstration organized by Arab-American groups since the war started on March 19.

Demonstrators with kaffiyehs on their heads and necks chanted "We don't want your racist war," "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." Some protesters carried Palestinian flags. Others wore peace pins.

The march started with a call-and-response between the crowd and organizers who had microphones set up on the back of a rented truck.

"We don't care what you say, intifada all the way," roared the crowd that was barricaded along the east side of the street as traffic moved in lanes on the west side. Police kept a low profile around the demonstration.

One organizer said the march was aimed to link the Iraq war with the conflict between Palestine and Israel.

"They go in and say 'shock and awe.' Are we shocked?" said Samia Halaby, 66, one of the organizers speaking from the truck. After a thunderous "No" from the crowd.

Organizers said the demonstration coincided with "Day of the Land," a Palestinian holiday commemorating the deaths of six Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers on March 29, 1976.

The protesters ran into about 10 pro-war demonstrators at 31st Street, who marched along the sidewalk with American flags and signs saying "New York supports our troops" in a counter-protest. The two sides traded cries of "Shame on you," but they were separated by a long line of police officers.

However, in conflicts between the two sides a few days ago, police tended to arrest anti-war activists. As of late Saturday no arrests had been reported.

At present, 40 percent of the New York population are immigrants, including 600,000 Muslims from over 20 countries.

Following the outbreak of the war, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has summoned some 6,700 Iraqi Americans for questioning. This massive questioning on the basis of national origin and background has led to criticism among civil right groups in the United States.

On Friday, in an apparent gesture to woo Arab Americans, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg visited Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center to assure the city's Muslim community that the war with Iraq is not against Islam.



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