Three hundred determined protestors defied George Bush, Condoleeza Rice,
Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Antonio Villaraigosa to march through Westwood in
support of Lebanon and Palestine.
While the rest of the world descries Israel's bombing of civilians, a U.N.
outpost, a Red Cross ambulance, and the Lebonese infrastructure, the U.S.
citizenry has been loath to give up its pro-Israel position. In spite of
the the odds, the International Action Center joined with the UCLA Muslim
Student Association to call for an end to hostilities against Lebanon and in
support of a Palestinian state.
Shouting "From Iraq to Palestine, occupation is a crime!" and
"Bush, Olmert, you can't hide--we charge you with genocide!" the
protestors waved signs demanding, "Stop doing to the Palestinians what the
Nazis did to us!" Palestinian and Lebanese flags waved above young
women in head scarves, who blasted chants and speeches through megaphones.
The marchers walked down Wilshire Boulevard from the Federal Building, around
Kinross in Westwood Village, and rallied outside of the Occidental Petroleum
Building, to demand an end to exchanging blood for oil and corporate
Police had shut down the eastbound Wilshire exit of Interstate 405 to prevent
traffic from seeing the demonstration, but many of the remaining Wilshire travelers
honked their support. March organizers moved the marchers onto the
sidewalk in front of the Oxy Building Building so that police had no excuse to
divert traffic around the demonstration. Security and the police
videotaped the protestors.
The Muslim and Arab communities have an uphill battle. The Shura Council of
Southern California and the Islamic Center of Southern California have
repeatedly called on Mayor Villaraigosa to attend Muslim peace vigils, but to no
avail. At a July 23 pro-Israel rally at Wilshire and San Vicente, the
Mayor told the thousands of Israel supporters, "We are here today to be
counted and to demonstrate to the people of Israel that we can be counted on . .
. to stand up and demonstrate the strength of our solidarity," and invoked
"our mutual heritage as immigrant nations" and "our common
obligation to fight the evils of religious extremism and terror." He
followed Governor Schwarzenegger, who called on his film persona as the
Terminator and proclaimed, "I'm so proud to stand with you today."
In the midst of today's rally, one Lebanon supporter took off after an SUV
that had waved a "thumbs down" at the crowd. He was intercepted
by one of the security crew, who warned him, "You're the one that
the cops will beat up, just like what's been happening in Hollywood."
Another protestor added, "And they'll come after all of us, 'cause that's
the way it is." The guy answered, "Yeah, that's the way it is in
Lebanon, too. That's what the police are here for--to hold us
down." He went off to lead some chants in Arabic.
Perhaps on July 23 he had stood surrounded by threatening Israeli supporters
on the north, east, and west, backs to the wall, as the police bullhorned to
protestors to exit to either side. Maybe he had marched out that day as
the police directed: east, then south, then west, then north on Gale, only to
meet Israeli flags and an angry pro-Israel crowd heading south.
But today the IAC and the Muslim Students found solidarity with the March 25
Coalition and the Black-Brown Coalition for Human and Civil Rights. A
small group at one end of the rally defiantly chanted, "Long live
Hezbollah!" in the midst of the third largest Jewish city in the world.
Next Saturday ANSWER-LA takes up the fight for the people of Lebanon and Palestine
at 1:00 p.m. at Olympic and Broadway.