ACLU seeks police for peace vigil

Jews who support state for Palestinians to rally

April 20, 2002|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has asked the Baltimore County Police Department to provide protection for Jewish residents who plan to hold a peace vigil in Pikesville tomorrow.

Baltimore Jews For Israeli-Palestinian Peace, which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state, held a similar event Sunday that was disrupted by about 50 to 70 counter-demonstrators waving flags and shouting at the group.

The confrontation at Park Heights and Slade avenues caused police to move the vigil to a site nearby. Officers later refused to let the group return to its original location, which was taken over by counter-demonstrators, according to the ACLU.

In a letter to county police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan this week, the ACLU stated that police "must take actions necessary to protect the physical safety of citizens, the exercise of speech and assembly right of rally organizers."

Baltimore Jews For Israeli-Palestinian Peace plans a similar vigil at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow at Park Heights Avenue and Old Court Road.

"All we're asking the Baltimore County police to do is to protect the integrity of the demonstration," said Dwight H. Sullivan, staff counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

Through a spokesman, Sheridan said yesterday said that he would ensure the group's right to demonstrate.

"Baltimore County police will follow the law and protect the demonstrators and citizens of Baltimore County," said Cpl. Ronald Brooks, a department spokesman.

Sunday's vigil began with about a dozen peace group members carrying signs, said A. Robert Kaufman, a political activist and former Baltimore mayoral candidate.

The number of opponents swelled, with many waving Israeli flags, Kaufman said. Group members hope this week's event will be more civil.

"We're hoping for a physical separation between the two groups," said Bob Jacobson, a longtime member of Baltimore Jews For Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

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