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Protesting an Anti-Terror Rally? Only in Berkeley By: Cinnamon Stillwell and Lee Kaplan
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, January 19, 2005

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Organized on Sunday, January 16, at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Park by Sanne DeWitt, the Rally Against Global Terrorism almost never took place. The city of Berkeley constantly stalled on a permit until the organizers were interviewed on KNEW conservative talk radio host Jeff Katz’s talk show. What followed was enough public outrage that a flurry of emails to City Hall got the permit granted the very next day. Katz became one of the keynote speakers that day giving a rousing call to define terrorism for what it really is: a crime against humanity and not something to be regarded as justified in any way.

As centerpiece for the rally and to bring the reality of terrorism closer to home, the wreckage of Jerusalem Bus #19, destroyed last year in a suicide bombing that killed 11 and wounded 45 passengers, was on display to show the horrors of terrorism up close. The back of the bus was completely blown away along with parts of the front roof. The interior of the bus was all burned and made any sensitive viewer understand the agony of those inside the bus that fateful day the attack occurred.

“Most of those passengers were simply people going to or from work,” Katz told the sympathetic crowd. A large portable mural displayed photos of many of those killed in over 50 suicide bombing attacks on buses in Israel.

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700 people attended the rally to protest terrorism worldwide and listen to a diverse group of speakers representing different religious, ethnic, and political points of view. This was an event for Muslims, Jews, Arabs, Hindus, Christians and others who all joined that day to oppose terrorism worldwide. Even some of Berkeley’s homeless joined in. A large portable mural displayed photos of many of those killed in terrorist attacks.


Unfortunately, the day was marred by the bellicose presence of protesters against the bus’s presence in Berkeley because it shows the world the damage that can be done by a suicide bomber. Word got out quickly and even before the rally officially began at noon, a crowd of 300 pro-Palestinian and radical communist and anarchist groups such as International Answer and the International Socialist Organization showed up determined to disrupt the event.  They gathered across the street to express their outrage that Jews, Christians, and other supporters of Israel and America had dared to gather and speak out against terrorism. 


Groups such as the Justice in Palestine Coalition, Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), East Bay Peace Action, United for Peace and Justice, and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were present. Paul La Rudee, the leader of Norcal ISM who once wrote about his experiences sleeping in the bed of a suicide bomber , was also present as a leader. As evidence of just where the sympathies of Berkeley’s political establishment lay, Berkeley City Councilman Max Anderson was also part of the crowd.


Around 40 pro-Palestinian college students, the women wearing hijabs and the men sporting Arafat-style black and white checkered keffiyehs (in some cases covering their whole faces, terrorist-style), waved Palestinian flags and used bullhorns to chant “Down with Israel!” and “ Down with the U.S.A!.” They yelled “Free Palestine!” in an attempt to drown out the anti-terrorism speakers on the platform.


Members of San Francisco State University’s General Union of Palestinian Students and UC Berkeley’s Muslim Student Association also joined their ranks and became the most vocal and rowdy of the bunch.  They unraveled a large banner reading “United States and Israel: Terrorists Against Humanity.”


One has to wonder at the logic of people who would protest a protest against world terrorism in the name of “humanity.” The demonstrators even brought small children who stood alongside them, shouting slogans and imitating their behavior.     


Expecting hostility, members of San Francisco Voice for Israel, Protest Warrior, and DAFKA set up opposite the pro-Palestinian forces and began waving Israeli and American flags. One man blew a shofar (a ram’s horn used traditionally to call Jews to prayer) that became a potent opposing weapon in a battle of noise. Some of the Palestinian protesters drove by in a car festooned with flags, yelling “Zionist scum!” at several elderly people who came to protest terrorism that day.


Members of “Jews for a Free Palestine” stood nearby, trying not to call attention to themselves as they supported a crowd of obvious Jew-haters.  Down the street a little way, members of Women in Black and MECA (including executive director Barbara Lubin) stood silently, holding aloft signs purporting to represent Palestinians who died in the conflict.  Lubin – a veteran of Berkeley’s far left raises money for a charity that directs money to Arabs in the Middle East and refuses to guarantee its funds won’t be used for terrorism. For Israelis and their children who are the daily victims of terrorism no such concern was shown at all, as usual.


A small number of pro-Palestinian demonstrators managed to infiltrate the anti-terror rally to try and disrupt things.  A man with a sign telling Christians to choose between “Christ or Israel” inspired frustration in many of the ardently pro-Israel Christians in attendance.  Wendy Campbell, a wannabe filmmaker from Oakland who makes propaganda films for and is also a professional Jew-baiter for the PLO roamed the rally trying to give away flyers and repeating the nonsensical phrase “ZionNazis” in answer to any attempt at dialogue.  Campbell loves to call Jews “Nazis”and recently visited Syria where she expressed admiration and support of the Assad regime, the same government that allows insurgents from Syria into Iraq to kill American soldiers. Despite constant catcalls that those present protesting terrorism that day were “Nazis,” it was the

pro-Palestinian demonstrators, as usual, who were the only ones in attendance displaying swastikas.     


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Politics of Meaning” Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Tikkun members tried to sell “peace” and moral equivalency to the anti-terror crowd who would have none of it.  In fact, fellow Jews disgusted with the Tikkun’s  penchant for groveling before the pro-terrorist left confronted them on several occasions.  “Self-hating Jew!” was hurled in their direction more than once. Others attempted to engage them in political discussion only to find the Tikkun members ignorant of the basic facts about terrorism. These are people who even raise money to rebuild Palestinian domiciles destroyed because they housed bomb factories, terrorist cells or were used to smuggle arms to kill Israelis.


“Give Abu Mazen a chance,” one Tikkun woman implored, apparently unaware of the five Israeli civilians murdered in a terrorist attack in Gaza just days after the Palestinian elections. The attack was praised in the official Palestinian Authority government press and Mahmoud Abbas announced he was going to pay salaries to terrorists in the Palestine Authority. It was telling that this woman would call Abbas “Abu Mazen” his terrorist name; Mazen has a PhD in Holocaust denial and organized the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.


About two hours into the rally, all hell broke loose.  Up until that point, the Berkeley Police Department—as is customary at these events—had kept the two sides separate,  with pro-Palestinian protesters, as boisterous as they were, remaining a safe distance across the street throughout most of the day.  But all of a sudden, a police officer crossed the street and could be seen talking to some of the protesters. Onlookers assumed he was telling them to settle down, but instead he appeared to motion them towards the anti-terror rally. Pro-Palestinian and radical demonstrators from the International Answer and ISO do this as tactic at all counterdemonstrations they do. That is, they mingle within the opposing crowd with Palestinian flags and anti-U.S. and anti-Israel signs so when the media takes pictures it looks like their numbers are greater. That the Berkeley police would cooperate with them in this technique is disturbing. Around 30 young Palestinian men headed across the street and straight into the anti-terrorism crowd.  The police officers, inexplicably, seemed to be escorting them rather than maintaining crowd control. 


But then again, this was Berkeley where even communists and anarchists can engage in a little capitalism by selling T-shirts and revolutionary memorabilia during demonstrations against Israel and America.


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Once on the other side of the street, the remaining police officers parted ways and allowed the unruly mob to disrupt the anti-terror rally.  Screaming “Allahu Akbar!” and pushing their way through the crowd, the pro-Palestinian protesters appeared as menacing as a similar crowd in the Middle East. But still the police did nothing to stop them.  Some members of the anti-terror rally shouted at the police officers, “Why aren’t you doing anything?” or “Why don’t you stop them?” The police officers ignored them as some of the pro-Palestinian demonstrators chanted their desire to be “martyrs.”


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Once they penetrated the anti-terrorism crowd, the mob proceeded to try and rush the stage, but were immediately met by the rally-goers who stood up to such attempts at intimidation.  Old men, even young women, all remained steadfast in the face of the thugs, and at one point, managed to push them back towards the edges of the rally.  It was only then that the police finally donned their riot gear and stepped in. One of the Palestinian protesters, who had reportedly gotten in a fistfight, was hauled off and presumably arrested.  It was later reported that others were arrested too. But this was little comfort to a crowd who had come to oppose global terrorism and been met with terrorism’s supporters and who were already disillusioned with their police “protectors.”


Local television news inaccurately portrayed the conflict that day as being between two sides that were equivalent. There was no mention of the fact that it was the pro-Palestinian protesters who disrupted the rally. At the end of the day, the fact that the local “pro-Palestinian” activists chose to protest an anti-terror rally, was eloquent in itself.  Indeed, what stood out the most were their vehement objections to the simple showing of the bombed bus. When interviewed by the media, many of them made a claim that the bus was “propaganda” and “one-sided,” as if there were two sides to the bombing of civilians peacefully using public transportation.


Opponents of terrorism shouldn’t have to worry about offending the sensibilities of those who evidently support it. Not even in Berkeley.    

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