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Outside the Democratic Convention

1,000 demand: ‘End Iraq sanctions’

By Nancy Mitchell

Los Angeles

On Aug. 15 a rally was held outside the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles to demand an end to the U.S./ United Nations war and sanctions against Iraq.

More than 1,000 people participated in the protest, which was co-chaired by American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Western Regional Director Michel Shehadeh and International Action Center Los Angeles Co-coordinator Preston Wood. Shehadeh and Wood co-chair the Save the Iraqi Children Coalition, which sponsored the rally.

During a moment of silence, participants held up 250 small coffins, each with the name and picture of an Iraqi child on it. The coffins dramatically symbolized the number of Iraqi children who die each day as a result of the sanctions.

More than 1.5 million people have died as a result of the sanctions since 1990. President Bill Clinton's administration has blocked every effort in the UN to lift the sanctions.

U.S. and British air strikes against civilian targets in Iraq continue almost daily.

As the rally ended at sundown, hundreds of demonstrators carrying coffins and signs lined the 12-foot-high fence directly across the street from the Staples Center, site of the Democratic Party gathering. The protesters chanted anti-sanctions slogans at the delegates.

Later, protestors lined a narrow sidewalk through which the thousands of delegates had to pass to return to their hotels. The demonstrators lining this gauntlet chanted slogans denouncing Democratic Party presidential candidate Al Gore and his Republican counterpart, George W. Bush, for being guilty of genocide in Iraq and racist executions in the United States.

The demonstration received extensive media coverage. The Associated Press and Reuters news services filed stories and photos that appeared in many newspapers across the United States and abroad. Arabic-language television stations also covered the rally. It was widely seen in the Middle East and in Arab American communities.

Speakers at the rally included radio and television personality Casey Kasem; IAC Western Regional Co-director Richard Becker; high-school student Meghan Flynn Perrault Lafayette, who traveled to Iraq last February; the Rev. James Lawson, pastor emeritus of Holman United Methodist Church; Jasser Hathout of the Islamic Center of Southern California; Sonia Tuma of the American Friends Service Committee; Office of the Americas Co-director Blase Bonpane; and Workers World Party presidential candidate Monica Moorehead.

Also: Alicia Jrapko of the U.S.-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan; National Lawyers Guild Executive Director James Lafferty; Linda Tubach and Bob McCloskey of the Save the Iraqi Children Coalition and Fellowship of Reconciliation; Middle East Children's Alliance Executive Director Barbara Lubin; Ghaith Mahmoud of the Muslim Student Association West at UCLA; and Don White of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador.

Magda Miller of the Iraq Sanctions Challenge introduced a group of young people who defied sanctions by taking medicine to Iraq. They included Forrest Schmidt, Sarah Sloan and this writer.

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