Sharon Visit to Chicago Expected to Draw Thousands of Protestors

Plans to protest the Chicago visit of right-wing Israeli general Ariel Sharon are underway. Muslim and Arab Americans along with peace activists are hoping to disrupt the speaking event with large numbers of protestors outside.

Sharon, widely considered to have played a role in the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Lebanon, will speak to the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities following an appearance by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Several thousand Jewish delegates from around the world are expected to attend the six-day event, one of the largest gatherings of Jewish Americans. The six-day event is expected to raise money for Jewish and Israeli causes.

Already thousands of Muslim and Arab American protestors are expected, and because of increased tensions between Jews and Palestinians, Chicago police say they are giving the event extra attention. According to reports in the Chicago Tribune, local authorities are working with the U.S. Secret Service and Department of State to provide a "strong law enforcement presence."

Barak is expected to speak Monday evening at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavillion, shortly after his visit with President Clinton on the Middle East crisis.

Organizers of the protest, the Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine, hope to draw even more protestors from around the country.

The current violence in Palestine has injured thousands of Palestinians and left over 180 dead. This most recent conflict erupted when Sharon made a provocative visit on September 28 to a Jerusalem site that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

Since the beginning of the crisis, Muslims and Arab Americans have held dozens of protests against Israeli aggression around the United States and Canada. Two weeks ago, Muslims helped organize and participate in a successful demonstration at Lafayette Park across from the White House to assert their outrage over the recent killing of Palestinians and occupation of Israeli forces. An estimated 10,000 protesters turned out from all over the U.S.

They held signs that read, "Rocks vs. Rockets," while chanting, "Barak, Barak what do you say? How many children have you killed today?" Many Islamic organizations sponsored the National Rally for Jerusalem, which was planned just two weeks before the event.


Nafeesa Syeed contributed to this report.

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