Five diverse groups to rally at conference

Protests, peace demonstrations planned at meeting

Annapolis Mideast Conference

November 27, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,SUN REPORTER

At least five groups with divergent agendas are expected to stage protests or peace rallies today in Annapolis as Middle East leaders meet on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Shalom International, which vehemently opposes any talks between Israelis and Palestinians, and Americans For a Safe Israel have obtained permits from the city to protest.

Another group, Neturei Karta International, which bills itself as an anti-Zionism organization, also plans to protest.

Annapolis police said there was no way to be sure how many protesters or peace demonstrators will show up today. Paul Gibbs, a special events coordinator for the Annapolis Police Department, said a city permit is not required.

"They're guaranteed a right to protest," Gibbs said. "Those that have contacted us have done so just to make sure everything goes smoothly."

The Baltimore chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has told news media that it is organizing a rally, with the pro-Palestine group calling on "peace-loving citizens to stand in support of peace" around the Naval Academy.

A coalition of pro-Israel groups is co-sponsoring what could be the biggest rally from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on the grounds of St. Anne's Church on Church Circle. Chartered buses are expected to come from New York City, Philadelphia and Washington.

Those attending, mainly American Jews, are coming to express their support for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and strong U.S. involvement in the negotiations.

The historic church is the host for two other events in concert with the peace conference, including last night's candlelight peace vigil and a "people's peace conference" from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. today, inviting citizens to look for common ground in producing a lasting and viable peace in the Middle East.

Yesterday, only a few signs appeared in advance of today's international event.

The Baltimore Jewish Council held a news conference in a Main Street office building to welcome peace delegates to the city. And in front of the academy's main gate, about 20 people from Shalom International held signs that read "Defend Jerusalem" and "Jerusalem: Every Jew's Experience."

They were easily outnumbered by police and journalists who swarmed the area. Hundreds of members of the press lined up later in the afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to get credentials to cover the conference.

Robert P. Kunst, president of Shalom International, said that by early afternoon he had talked to reporters from Israel, Australia and Britain.

"We only had one woman yelling at us, blaming the Jews for everything, but everyone [else] has been positive," he said. "The police have been great. The locals have been great."

Five officers were patrolling the area, said Officer Kevin D. Freeman, a spokesman for the Annapolis Police Department. "It's been quiet," he said.

Besides local road, waterway and air restrictions, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency was scheduled to move to Level 3 staffing at 6 a.m. today, meaning that state and federal agencies involved in logistics and security for the peace conference planned to send representatives to the State Emergency Operations Center in Reisterstown.

Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

Traffic closures

Road traffic

Traffic will be restricted from 7 a.m. to about 3 p.m.: King George Street will be closed from Maryland Avenue to Gate 1.

Randall Street will be closed from Prince George Street to Gate 1. The lower part of East Street, from Martin Street to King George, will be closed.

Maryland highway authorities say motorcades of diplomats on U.S. 50 and Interstate 97 near Annapolis could slow the morning rush hour.

Water traffic

Water movement is restricted from about 500 yards north of the Route 450 bridge to the Spa Creek drawbridge and from the Eastport Yacht Club to the naval station.

Air traffic

The FAA has issued a notice to airmen that restricts flying within a 30-mile radius of the Naval Academy during the conference.

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