WASHINGTON: (South News) August 7 - Chanting "stop the sanctions now!" and carrying a water purifier that U.S. policy forbids being sent to Iraq, a few hundred people demonstrated outside the White House on Monday, and 104 were arrested after they sat on the sidewalk and refused to move.
Demonstrators armed with signs like ``Sanctions are Mass Murder'' and ``Sanctions Suck the Life out of Countries'' gathered in Lafayette Park across from the White House to deplore the economic sanctions placed on Iraq by the United Nations.
Some protesters crossed Pennsylvania Avenue to attach signs including ``Stop Sanctions Now!'' and ``US has killed 1.7 million Iraqis for oil'' to the black iron fence ringing the White House and to stand on the sidewalk in front of the mansion, violating a ban on such stationary protests. Police loaded the protesters, their hands tied behind their backs with flexible plastic cuffs, onto arrest wagons and took them to a station
Earlier the demonstrators carried the water purifier to the steps of the Treasury Department Annex off Lafayette Square. The department enforces rules against commerce in such technology to Iraq. "Why, why, why?" the protesters asked, standing inches from uniformed members of the Secret Service, who replied simply, "The doors are closed."
The demonstrators said the purifer and others like it, which can chlorinate 1 million gallons of water a day, will be delivered to Iraq by sympathetic people traveling there, with a Non governmental Organization - NGO overseeing installation and monitoring its use in Iraq.
Four water-purifyiers and $7,000 worth of chlorine gas are to be donated to the 28th of April orphanage, the Dar Aytam orphanage, the Islamic Health Center and the Islamic Youth Center all in Baghdad.
The demonstrators carried a banner with the names of 1,000 people in a "campaign of conscience" who are donating money to support such exports, in violation of U.S. law. They risk civil fines up to $275,000 per violation and criminal penalties up to $1 million and/or 12 years in prison by donating money and supplies to the Iraqi people.
Leaving the treasury annex, they marched to Pennsylvania Avenue NW in front of the White House. Those who wanted to risk arrest sat down next to the fence protecting the White House grounds. After three warnings from U.S. Park Police officers, they were arrested and charged with misdemeanors of demonstrating without a permit or demonstrating in a restricted area, according a Park Police spokesman. Three were also charged with damaging government property for splashing a red liquid they called "blood" on the sidewalk.
Those arrested included Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, the Rev. John Dear, a Jesuit peace activist, and the Rev. Jim Lawson Jr., a retired United Methodist pastor who recently visited Iraq.
It was the second day of demonstrations in Washington by a coalition of peace activists and clergy calling attention to conditions in Iraq after 10 years of sanctions imposed after the Gulf War. The protesters said more than 1 million Iraqis have died from lack of medical supplies or have been killed in bombing to enforce the no-fly zone. Many of those who have died have been children, according to the protesters.
The sanctions were initially put into place to help evict Iraqi troops from Kuwait, according to the Bush administration. Iraq had invaded Kuwait, an oil-rich territory under the domination of an U.S.-backed monarchy, in August 1990, after a protracted and complicated dispute between the two countries.
Since the sanctions have been imposed United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund - UNICEF estimates that more than a half million children under the age of five have died as a direct result of the economic sanctions.
Spirit of anti-Vietnam War in Iraq protest
On Sunday the spirit of the anti-Vietnam War movement was revisited in the US capital as thousands of Americans, singing old anti-war songs, gathered in front of the White House to protest sanctions against Iraq.
"Stop the sanctions now!" chanted the crowd in Lafayette Square as folk song legend and long-time peace activist Pete Seeger played the banjo and sang "Down by the Riverside," a time-honoured hymn of the Vietnam War generation.
An estimated 3,000 people braved driving rain to vent their frustration with the United States, Britain and other western powers, which led international efforts 10 years ago today to impose sweeping UN sanctions against Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait.
President Clinton was not at the White House yesterday and the protesters' stand-in was a no-show. Martin Sheen, the actor who plays President Josiah Bartlet on NBC's "The West Wing," was to be on hand, said rally organizers, but his flight from Los Angeles was canceled. Sheen is one of a group of entertainers involved in the movement, which also attracted veteran protest singer Pete Seeger, who sang his trademark peace songs.
The Washington rally was one of a few around the world over the weekend to protest the sanctions, imposed by the U.N. Security Council on Aug. 6, 1990.
In international shows of support yesterday, four American activists began a three-day fast outside the United Nations offices in Baghdad and a protester partially climbed a 450-foot-high millennium memorial in London. In Los Angeles, religious groups are preparing protests against the sanctions and other causes during next week's Democratic National Convention.