Neo-Nazis, Foes Clash At Israeli Embassy

Washington Post/May 12, 2002
By Allan Lengel

Their disparate, passionate views threw them together yesterday. Dozens of police officers kept them apart.

Under clear blue skies, in a normally serene neighborhood, about 250 neo-Nazis and white separatists rallied outside the Israeli Embassy, exchanging angry rhetoric with about 150 counter-demonstrators across the street.

The white supremacists, from states including Ohio, Florida and Georgia, gathered outside the embassy on Van Ness Street in upper Northwest Washington to protest U.S. support for Israel. Occasionally, they pumped their arms in the air in unison and yelled, "Sieg Heil." Some also voiced support for the Palestinians, waving Palestinian flags and chanting, "Two, four, six, eight, we don't want your Jewish state." They interspersed their chants with obscenities and racial and ethnic slurs.

The counter-demonstrators, who included Palestinians, Jews and African Americans, came to voice opposition to the neo-Nazis and support for Palestinian independence. Many were outraged that the white separatists would take on the Palestinian cause as their own. Some counter-demonstrators responded by displaying their middle fingers and chanting, "Nazi picketers always lie, they don't care if Arabs die."

"It's not right," said Isis Nusair, 35, a Palestinian and D.C. resident who screamed, "Put that flag down!" to a white supremacist protester across the street who was waving a Palestinian flag. "It drives me crazy. They're using the Palestinian issue for their own racism."

Rami Elamine, another counter-demonstrator, said he came to tell the white supremacists: "We don't need your help in this struggle. You would just as well go after Arabs and Muslims and Palestinians just as you do the Jews. But you're using the situation to whip up anti-Semitism. We can stand against the Israeli policies and against anti-Semitism."

D.C. officers and uniformed U.S. Secret Service police -- some in riot gear -- stood between the two groups, which took up positions on sidewalks opposite one another in the 2600 block of Van Ness. There were no arrests during the rally, but one 16-year-old counter-demonstrator was arrested after the rally ended at 2 p.m. for slowing traffic and refusing to move on, in an incident involving the separatists, police said.

The white supremacist rally was sponsored by the National Alliance, which advocates the overthrow of the U.S. government and a white separatist nation. The Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People and the Youth Leadership Support Network sponsored the counter-demonstration.

The National Alliance circulated fliers among its members that displayed pictures of Osama bin Laden and the Trade Center with the heading, "Let's Stop Being Human Shields for Israel . . . Let's Cut Off aid to Israel now."

Billy Roper, deputy membership coordinator of the National Alliance, said he was pleased with the turnout. He said Jews have a disproportional influence in the country, and he urged the United States to stop supporting Israel.

Above the yelling of demonstrators, he said the counter-demonstrators agreed with his organization's message, but "they just dislike us personally. They're dysfunctional societal misfits."

Counter-demonstrator Jerry Bellow, of the Columbus, Ohio, chapter of Anti-Racist Action, said he has been a counter-demonstrator at many white supremacist rallies. He surveyed the crowd across the street and expressed concern about the group's push to raise its visibility.

"I'm angry," he said. "There are too many of them."

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