Bush was in Philadelphia earlier today (Monday, December 12, 2005) speaking of "staying the course" in Iraq.


As promised there was another  voice in Phila. today as the world's chief war-maker  spoke before the Phila. World Affairs Council at the Park Hyatt Phila. at the Bellevue, Broad & Walnut Streets.  It was a voice - that stretched a city block - protesting the Bush Agenda of War & Militarism, of "Staying the Course" of Death and Occupation, Corporate Greed in the Face of Human Need.


THANK YOU to everyone that gave voice to the demonstration of our opposition. THANK YOU to all the groups which made it a success:

Brandywine Peace Community  (610-544-1818),  House of Grace Catholic Worker, Jobs with Justice, Phila. International Action Center, Military Families Speak Out, Shalom Center, Suburban Greens, Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Delaware Co. Wage Peace & Justice, Coalition for Peace Action (Delaware & Chester Counties), PRAWN (Phila. Regional Anti-War Network), Peace Center of Delaware County, Global Women's

Strike, Payday, Avenging the Ancestors Coalition, Uhuru, International Concerned Families & Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal, African American Freedom & Reconstruction League, Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, Coalition for Peace Action (Montgomery & Bucks County), Phila. Committee to Free the 5, Grandparents for Peace in the Middle East, and the Southeast PA Chapter of the Americans for Democratic Action.


Bob Smith, Staffperson, Brandywine Peace Community




Protesters to confront Bush on war, homefront

President’s tour to defend action in Iraq arrives in Center City today.

PHILADELPHIA President Bush will be met by streets filled with protesters today when he speaks to the World Affairs Council at the Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the

Bellevue Hotel on Broad and Walnut streets. The president will be in town for the third in a tour of speeches where he has called for staying the course in the war in Iraq and cited

improvements to the war-torn country’s economy. At least 35 groups will gather today to protest Bush’s visit and his foreign and domestic policies. “We’re there to protest the war

in Iraq and Bush’s policy of staying the course, of war and occupation,” said Robert M. Smith, a staff coordinator with the Brandywine Peace Community. He said the

president’s plans in Iraq are a “course of death and militarism.” Smith said the U.S. should withdraw all of its military presence in Iraq.

As of yesterday afternoon, police had not designated areas for the protesters to gather. Smith said he plans to protest in the streets at Broad and Walnut. Traffic is

expected to be tied up around the hotel for much of the morning and into the afternoon. The World Affairs Council event is sold out. Doors will open for those with tickets at 10 a.m. and no one will be allowed in after 11 a.m., according to the World Affairs Council.

Among those planning to protest, according to Smith, are the founders of the National Military Families Speak Out organization and Celeste Zappala, whose son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was the first Pennsylvania National Guardsman to die in combat since 1945.




War debate hits city

PHILADELPHIA Protesters gathered across the street from the hotel where President Bush spoke about the war in Iraq yesterday, demanding

that the U.S. military end its presence there. A few hundred protesters, some with signs and others chanting, stood behind police barricades for

more than three hours across from the Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue as the president spoke to the World Affairs Council.

The protest remained mostly calm, but police reported two arrests and planned to charge one man with assaulting an officer. Police did not release the names of

the two people arrested, but said only one was being charged. Although there were a few Bush supporters on the street, most of those gathered were against the

president and his policies. “It’s impossible to win. No insurgency has ever been defeated,” said Timmy Patsch, 39, of Philadelphia. “Leave immediately and never go

back there.”

Jennifer Murphy, 28, of the political action group Philly for Change, said that the U.S. presence in Iraq is fueling the insurgency. “Us leaving would give the ruling

party there the opportunity to establish peace,” Murphy said, calling on the president to establish a timeline to remove U.S. troops.



Bush says 30,000 Iraqis killed in war

PHILADELPHIA In a rare, unscripted moment, President Bush yesterday estimated that 30,000 Iraqis have died in the war, the first time he has publicly acknowledged the

high price Iraqis have paid in the push for democracy. In the midst of a campaign to win support for the unpopular war, Bush unexpectedly invited questions from the World Affairs

Council of Philadelphia after a speech asserting that Iraq was making progress despite violence, f lawed elections and other setbacks. He immediately was challenged

about the number of Iraqis who have lost their lives since the beginning of the war.  “I would say 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis,” Bush said. “We’ve lost about 2,140 of our own troops in Iraq.” AP





Posted on Tue, Dec. 13, 2005


2 arrested in Phila. protest

About 1,000 protesters and onlookers massed on
Broad Street. Some said officers assaulted the arrested men.

Inquirer Staff Writers

Police arrested two antiwar protesters - who some witnesses alleged were assaulted by officers - as almost 1,000 demonstrators and onlookers assembled yesterday outside the Center City hotel where President Bush spoke in support of his Iraq war effort.

Police said they would charge one of the men with assaulting an officer.

Bush's motorcade arrived at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue at 11:05 a.m. and was greeted by a chorus of boos from a crowd assembled mainly across Broad Street just south of Walnut.

By the time he departed at 12:45, the crowd had swelled with curious bystanders and a small contingent of Bush supporters. As Bush drove away, someone threw a snowball at the motorcade, but it splattered harmlessly on the street.

Meanwhile, a scuffle broke out between police and two brothers who were protesting. One brother was charged with assaulting an officer, and the other went to a hospital to be treated for the possible aggravation of recent hernia surgery, his mother said.

Aisha K. El Mekki, 58, said a man who turned out to be a plainclothes officer jumped on her 15-year-old grandson, who was carrying a clear glass of yellow liquid.

The liquid was lemonade.

When El Mekki's son, Sharif, 34, the boy's father, demanded to know what was going on, the plainclothes officer accosted him, witnesses said. Sharif's brother, Mikyeil, 32, also joined the altercation, which occurred outside the Italian Bistro restaurant.

Sharif El Mekki was to be charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, said Inspector William Colarulo, a Police Department spokesman.

Mikyeil El Mekki was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital for treatment. His mother said he had hernia surgery several months ago and may have aggravated it during the scuffle.

Colarulo said Mikyeil would not be charged.

Capt. William Fisher, who was in charge of crowd control, said a plainclothes officer not assigned to his unit did get into a "physical confrontation." He said he did not know who the officer was.

Fisher said the two men, whom he helped lead into a police wagon, "didn't look like they were traumatized."

As the antiwar demonstration grew while Bush spoke inside the hotel, Fisher described the gathering as "an orderly but angry crowd" that peaked at 1,000 people.

While some younger protesters shouted profanities, Marvin Thall, 79, quietly held a sign declaring that "Murtha is Right - Bush is Wrong," referring to the Pennsylvania congressman who has called for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Thall, who served a year in U.S.-occupied Japan after World War II, said the current conflict had "dragged the nation into a bad mess."

While some activists oppose any hostility, Thall said the United States could keep a strike force near Iraq, perhaps at sea.

"I'm not saying 100 percent withdrawal tomorrow. I'm saying as soon as possible," Thall said.

Jim Moyer, 22, watched the demonstration from a different, personal perspective.

Moyer, a Marine lance corporal from Mount Laurel, returned home this year after seven months in Iraq.

"I respect their right to freedom of speech," he said of the protesters. "I just don't agree with them."

Moyer said he supported the President and the goal of the war, which he said was "to establish a secure and democratic nation in the country of Iraq."

He added, "I support my commander in chief no matter what."

The war is also personal for Celeste Zappala, 58, of Mount Airy, who gained national attention for protesting the war after the death of her son, Sherwood Baker, 30, in Baghdad last year.

She sharply criticized the President.

"I'm a witness to what the real cost of war is," she said. "This is my son's life. It's lost to this man's deception, to his lies and his morality."

Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com.



Posted on Tue, Dec. 13, 2005


Protesters warmed by change in the air

IT WAS COLD as hell outside yesterday, but Riot Grrrl knew that Bush couldn't roll into town without inciting a lot of yelling and a few raised middle fingers.

This is the City of Brotherly Love, after all.

So while Bush spoke to the elite inside the Bellevue at Broad and Walnut streets yesterday morning, several hundred people gathered across the street to bellow, "Stop the War" and wave signs like, "Bush Lied, Thousands Died."

Wrapped in their fuzzy hats and down jackets, the anti-war, anti-Bush crowd kept going all morning, until Riot Grrrl's toes were frozen.

Among the crowds was Mike Hoffman, 25, of Newtown, who served during the Iraqi invasion in 2003.

"I saw what we did that caused the problem," he said. "I saw cities destroyed by what we did."

But like a lot of people out yesterday, Hoffman said he feels a change in the air.

"People are starting to feel like something's changing," he said. "Politicians are saying we need to bring them home."

That feeling clearly kept the masses warm yesterday during the several hours outside the hotel. At one point they started gleefully roaring, "Send in the Twins. Send in the Twins."

"I think we're getting close to a tipping point," said Amy Roesler, 52, of San Francisco, who is in town to speak at a public-health convention.

Roesler's son is on his third tour in Iraq.

"He's angry. He doesn't believe in this war. He thinks we're doing more harm than good," she said.

Naturally, Bush came and left in his fancy motorcade without acknowledging the angry crowds. But he might want to watch out - a new candidate may have already been drafted to replace him.

One protester yesterday was carrying a "Kanye West for President" T-shirt through the crowd.

He does write a catchy tune...





Some experts say president needs to do better in explaining Iraq plan


By STEPHANIE K. WHALEN , swhalen@delcotimes.com



When President Bush arrived in the birthplace of American independence Monday, it wasn’t your average, $10,000 World Affairs luncheon, say political academics. Three days shy of Iraq’s first democratic elections -- and with increasing pressure over declining public-opinion polls -- the president’s visit was a calculated chess move in the game of power politics, according to Villanova political science professor Matt Kerbel.

"These speeches in Philly, along with those in several other cities over the past few days, are designed to try to convince people to support his decision to continue efforts in Iraq," said Kerbel.

"Public support is the basic premise of leadership. Without that support, his power weakens and his policies don’t seem viable."

According to the most recent data from The Associated Press, 58 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush’s tactics in

Bob Smith of the Brandywine Peace Community said polls conducted in
Iraq showed an even higher disapproval rate of 80 percent, with 40 percent of those polled agreeing it’s acceptable to kill Americans to force an end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

However, as the president has given rallying speeches in three
U.S. cities within the past month, his approval ratings have increased by about 5 percent.

Edward Turzanski, a
LaSalle University political science professor and senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said it’s hard to say whether the president’s speeches caused that recent boost, but agreed that public opinion was one of the driving forces behind his visit Monday to Philadelphia.

"The administration has realized that critics of
Iraq have seized public opinion, and not necessarily with accurate facts," he said.

"(Bush) has a responsibility to the American people to get up and articulate his policy in an honest and factual manner. As he does that, he turns a murky outlook into clarity -- and looks good as a result."

Politically speaking, Kerbel said pressure from the president’s own party could have pushed him towards Philly this week, fearing that his stigma would threaten Republican control in the next election.

Or, Bush may have simply run out of options.

"The president can control news agendas and make any effort to persuade the public to follow him, but when he’s operating in a hostile climate as Bush is, odds are long that he can change public opinion with speeches," he said.

"It’s not enough to be optimistic and point to progress if people aren’t inclined to see it. Short of changing his policy, what’s left are the tools of public relations."



Posted on Mon, Dec. 12, 2005

Protesters turn out for Bush


It was like a war protest of old on Broad Street outside the Park Hyatt yesterday at noon when the president was giving a speech to the World Affairs Council about the Iraq war.

A man was singing a wobbly rendition of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" and a recording of Joan Baez's "Amazing Grace" followed.

Scores of protesters chanted U.S. Out of Iraq and Bush Lies, People Die.

Hand scrawled placards blamed Bush and capitalism, celebrated unions, and declared solidarity with Cindy Sheehan, the mother of an soldier killed in the line of duty who has become the face of the anti-war movement.

About 12:30 p.m., across the street from the hotel, there was a disturbance. A West Philadelphia woman named Aisha El Mekki said police grabbed her 15-year-old grandson as he was walking down the sidewalk across from the hotel. They had come to protest the war, and he was carrying a clear glass of hot lemonade. His father and uncle protested, and she says police hit them with batons. Two hours later, she said one was in the police lock-up; the other had been hospitalized.



Bush hails progress in Iraq

Courier-Post Staff


President Bush invoked the democratic symbolism of Philadelphia to urge America's continued support of the Iraq war during a speech in Center City Monday.

"I can think of no better place to discuss the issue of a free Iraq than the heart of Philadelphia, the place where American democracy was born," he said. "I got something to say, and I'm looking forward to saying it here."

The hourlong speech, to about 500 people at a luncheon of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, was the third in a series of Bush policy addresses this month intended to stem increasing American dissatisfaction with the war.

For the first time, the president also publicly acknowledged that Iraqis themselves have paid a high price in the push for democracy.

"I would say 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis," Bush said in response to a question from a member of the audience. "We've lost about 2,140 of our own troops in Iraq."

While acknowledging that American military and political planners have had to "adjust" certain plans since the 2003 invasion, the president said Thursday's election in Iraq is further proof that the country is steadily becoming a model of democracy in the Middle East.

A group of about 100 anti-Bush protesters lined Broad Street outside the Park Hyatt Hotel at the Bellevue, where Bush spoke in an ornate ballroom with a blue-and-gold world map behind him.

"I'm sure that there are people over there who are appreciative of what's going on, but the reasons why we're over there are still unclear to us," said Nicole Sparks, 28, of Westmont, a protester with the American Friends Service Committee.

When told Bush mentioned the Sept. 11 attacks three times in Monday's speech, Sparks said: "Ya gotta keep us afraid, ya gotta keep mentioning Sept. 11."

Bush has been criticized recently for isolating himself from critics -- the cover of Newsweek this week pictures him inside a bubble -- but on Monday Bush took rare questions from the audience.

Bush was also asked why he repeatedly invoked the Sept. 11 attacks in justifying his reasoning for going to war -- even though a connection between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaida terrorists has never been proved.

"9/11 changed my look on foreign policy," he said. "It said that oceans no longer protect us, we can't take threats for granted. If we see a threat, we have to deal with it."

He compared the difficult fight for Iraqi democracy with the bloody days during America's founding, saying there were eight years of "disorder and upheaval" between the end of the Revolutionary War and the election of a constitutional American government.

He said Congress was chased out of Philadelphia in 1783 by angry veterans demanding pay, and it wasn't until the middle of the 20th century that America fulfilled its ideal of equality for all.

"It is important to keep this history in mind as we look at the progress of freedom and democracy in Iraq," he said.

But Rutgers-Camden history Professor Jeffery Dorwart, who listened to the speech on the radio, had a different historical interpretation than the president's.

"It's kind of a flawed comparison," he said, noting that Iraq has a "totally different political, economic, social history" from the one America is offering it.

"The comparison is just simply way, way oversimplified by whoever wrote that speech," he said.

Still, he said, both struggles had its "loyalists" to the old regime who represented an enemy within. "I understand what the Bush administration is trying to do, but don't use Philadelphia, don't use our nation's history, as an example," he said.

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a former Marine drill instructor who has emerged as one of the most vocal proponents of immediate withdrawal from Iraq, also offered a different historical interpretation. Murtha had his own press conference down Broad Street at the Ritz-Carlton an hour after Bush's motorcade pulled away.

"Iraqis are not against democracy, they're against our occupation," said Murtha, adding that he made a "mistake" voting for the war in the first place.

"If the French stayed here (after the American Revolution), we would have thrown them the hell out," he said.

Still, Bush described "steady progress" in Iraq, with more military bases transferring to Iraqi control and the Sunnis becoming increasingly involved in the democratic process. He said that even though America's image worldwide "may be bad," people still want to move to the U.S. But his optimism seemed more tempered than in past speeches.

"This week's election won't be perfect, and a successful vote is not the end of the process," he said. "These enemies are no going to give up because of a successful election."

Reach Matt Katz at (856) 486-2456 or mkatz@courierpostonline.com
Published: December 13. 2005 3:00AM


Additional article: http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051213/NEWS/512130335/1007





Subject: Police actions December 12, 2005
Date: December 20, 2005

To whom it may concern:

As conveners of the December 12 protest against President George W. Bush
and the war against Iraq, we wish to express our concern over the
actions of the Philadelphia police in the unprovoked assault into the
protest crowd and the unjustified arrests that followed of Sharif
El-Mekki and his brother, Mikyeil El-Mekki, both participants in the

While the charges against Sharif El-Mekki were dismissed at a
preliminary court hearing on December 15 and Mikyeil El-Mekki was not
charged, we feel that an investigation of the police conduct in this
incident is warranted along with a public apology to the El-Mekki

>From all accounts we have received, a plainclothes police officer named
Samer Musallam entered the demonstration and without identifying himself
as a police officer confronted Mr. El-Mekkis 15-year-old son and
demanded he show identification.  At the same time, a uniformed woman
officer whispered in the childs ear that he needed to come with her.

According to news reports the youth was confronted because he was
carrying a container of lemonade, apparently considered a threat by the
police.  Considering that many people participating in the protest or
just walking down the street were carrying drink containers, we suspect
racial profiling was a motivating factor.

As any parent would, Mr. El-Mekki stepped in to find out what was going
on.  An altercation broke out when Mr. El-Mekki was shoved and later
punched by the non-uniformed officer who still had not identified
himself.  Protesters reported later that they only realized the man was
a police officer when they saw he was wearing a gun.

The actions of a plain-clothed Philadelphia police officer created a
very dangerous situation where other demonstrators, including a young
child sitting on an adults shoulders, were put at risk once baton
swinging officers lurched over the police barricades within seconds,
shoving protesters against the windows of a nearby restaurant and
pushing Mr. El-Mekki to the ground.   Mr. El-Mekki sustained injuries
when his hands were stepped on, and he was rammed in the back repeatedly
by a police baton.

To some, this was an unprovoked attack on members of an otherwise
peaceful protest of a thousand people exercising their Constitutional
rights.  We are especially concerned that Captain William Fisher and the
Civil Affairs unit were apparently not informed of the presence of
plain-clothed police officers within the congested demonstration.

The purpose of the Civil Affairs unit, according to the units website,
is securing any demonstrators right to communicate their grievance,
complaint or protest.   We believe that purpose was seriously
compromised on December 12, 2005 when members of the El Mekki family --
none of whom were doing anything wrong while attending an orderly and
peaceful demonstration -- were harassed, then roughly arrested.

We call on the Philadelphia Police Department for a full investigation
of the actions of their officers in and out of uniform in this
incident.  We further call for a public apology to the El-Mekki family.

Sharif El-Mekki is a respected, award-winning, principal of a
Philadelphia middle school.  Ali, his 15-year-old son, was attending his
first protest, which his grandmother, also present at the protest,
described as a civics lesson for my grandson.   The Philadelphia
police did not leave this young man with a very positive experience.

With public opposition to the war in Iraq and other Bush Administration
policies growing, we anticipate more public protests in the upcoming
months.   Protesters need to know that their constitutional rights are
respected and protected.

Images of police attacking protesters can serve as a deterrent for
others to attend public events of this kind.  For the Philadelphia
Police Department to fail to respond to citizens concerns over this
incident could be seen as an indicator that the right to engage in
peaceful protest is no longer guaranteed in Philadelphia.


Betsey Piette, Philadelphia International Action Center
Robert Smith, Brandywine Peace Community
Elizabeth Fattah, Suburban Greens
John Grant, Veterans for Peace
Ray Martinez, President, SEIU/PSSU Local 668
Bill Perry, Vietnam Veterans Against the War