Arab Americans Play a Visible Role at the Democratic National Convention
By Munir K. Nasser
Arab Americans will play a visible role in the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles this week, voting as delegates and organizing a rally to lift the sanctions on Iraq.
A record high of 52 Arab American delegates have been elected to the Convention from 20 states. Michigan has the largest Arab American delegation with eight, California and Pennsylvania have seven each, and Ohio's delegation will include four Arab Americans. Among the prominent Arab Americans participating in this year’s convention are Democratic members of Congress, state governors, city mayors, and union leaders of Arab descent.
A coalition of American civil movements will demonstrate in a rally during the convention on Tuesday, including one organized by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) on behalf of Iraqi children suffering under UN economic sanctions.
ADC’s West Coast Regional Director Michel Shehadeh told Albawaba.com that the rally would mobilize more Americans against the sanctions. “As we mark the 10th year of the sanctions against Iraq, more than 1.5 million Iraqis have died, and hundreds of children are dying each day due to lack of clean water, medicine and food,” he said.
Shehadeh charged that President Clinton, Secretary of State Albright, and Vice President Gore and others are responsible for the suffering of Iraq. He said the rally would show them, and the world, the suffering of the Iraqi children during the Democratic National Convention. “The eyes of the world will be on Los Angeles,” he said
Shehadeh is also the Chairperson for Save the Iraqi Children Coalition, which was established four years ago. It is comprised of many organizations and individuals in Southern California, including Arab American and US civil rights organizations.
He said the response to this coalition was amazing. “Although the mainstream media does not show the real feeling of the American people, we were surprised that most Americans are against those sanctions,” he stressed.
He noted that this nationwide campaign against the sanctions has culminated in a bill in Congress to lift the humanitarian sanctions against the people of Iraq. “The campaign is working, and it is not going to stop until the sanctions, which are devastating the Iraqi society, are lifted”.
Shehadeh said he is encouraged by the response of the American people to participate in this rally. He added that many people from the West Coast are coming to Los Angeles from Seattle, Portland, Denver, and also people from the East Coast. He expects the rally to be attended by church groups, civil rights organizations. People from all walks of life will participate in a huge demonstration to show the Convention and America the strong sentiment and feelings against those sanctions. Arab Americans are leading the effort and will constitute a large number of the demonstrators.
He noted that because this year is also the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing by US atomic weapons, people are seeing the sanctions now as the nuclear weapons of mass destruction. “There is a big feeling among Americans, not only people who care about Iraq per se, but people who are concerned about this newly-found cheap weapon of mass destruction against third world countries,” he stressed.
Just as they did in Philadelphia for the Republican National Convention two weeks ago, loosely organized groups of activists advancing countless political causes are swarming into Los Angeles to publicize their causes and possibly disrupt the Democratic gathering.
The size and diversity of the protests are expected to be larger than those in Philadelphia that resulted in nearly 400 arrests, traffic gridlock and property damage. During this week, downtown Los Angeles streets near the convention site will be filled with activists
Denouncing corporate globalization, genetic engineering, police brutality, the death penalty, defense spending, urban poverty and the destruction of the wilderness.
Dozens of young, college-educated activists will organize civil disobedience marches and carrying banners and life-sized puppets with messages to Democratic delegates and the media covering them.
But the Los Angeles police are taking precautions by closing streets to traffic near the convention site. The US Postal Service removed dozens of mailboxes from downtown corners in fear that explosives could be dumped inside them. Some downtown merchants are planning to close during the convention, while others are boarding storefront windows as if a hurricane is on the way – Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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