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[casi] April 20 report

In discussions with participants and local organizers of April 20th we have
noted a wide variety of individual experiences. As a group specifically
oriented toward solidarity with the Iraqi people we chose the ANSWER rally
site to begin the march. They clearly and explicitly condemned Washington's
war on Iraq as a central slogan. The assembly was characterized by the
predominance of US Arab and Muslim communities mobilized in support of
Palestine. For those who have suffered through relatively small gatherings in
response to the monumental developments in the past months, it felt great to
be among tens of thousands standing for the embattled Palestinian people.

Amidst the varied issues and demands of the march we considered it essential,
as an organization, to literally raise the banner of Iraq. Our prime
objective for the day was to maintain the huge (5'X12') NO US WAR ON IRAQ!
END UN SANCTIONS banner and rigging. Overall we got a good but varied
reception. Upon setting up the banner a middle-aged Arab-American man
skeptically read our banner then remarked emphatically with a slight accent
'THAT is the best banner here.' Many gave us an enthusiastic thumbs-up, while
others read our banner with interest but without comment. I felt a certain
ambivalence by some on the issue of Iraq. The association with Saddam Hussein
is seen by some as the last thing the Palestinians need at this time. During
the preceding week the US administration justified its support to Israel with
the sensational "revelations" of Iraq and Iran funding Palestinian resistance
to Israeli occupation. Then someone would simply thank us, and others engaged
us in discussions on Iraq. After one such discussion Ali, an Egyptian-born
school teacher offered to help hold the banner. When the march ended four
hours later Ali would finally relinquish his half of the heavy load.

Without any intention there always seemed to be steady rhythms of lively
chants around us. This was especially helpful when lugging the huge rigging
and sail through gusts of wind and surging crowds. As the march proceeded we
came in contact with other contingents. At one point, a roving group of Arab
young men checked out the banner and improvised a series of chants against
the US war on Iraq. The most interesting combinations were the groups of
Muslim women in chadors mixing it up with the anti-Globalism youth with their
piercings and tattoos. And yes, they could both join in a single voice to
demand an end to Israel's war and condemn US support. Heh-Heh, Ho-ho the
Occupation's Got to Go! -was particularly effective at crossing the cultural

At the end of the march we ran into a few of our son's high-school friends.
They were completely amazed and impressed. They had come down with one of the
kid's mother to what they thought was to be a "peace" march. They did not
expect more than seventy five thousand supporters of Palestinian rights to be
in the streets of Washington D.C.

Bob Allen
Campaign to End the Sanctions
Philadelphia PA

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