US: Shoe protest held near White House

Activists criticize President George W. Bush, urge the Iraqi government to release detained, shoe-throwing reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi

Dawn
Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WASHINGTON --- About 100 people gathered outside the White House on Wednesday to protest for the release of the Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President George W. Bush over the weekend.

Muntazer al-Zaidi, who works for the Al Baghdadia Television, has been in custody since disrupting President Bush's weekend press conference with the size-10 projectiles. If convicted, Mr Zaidi may be jailed for up to seven years.

The protesters brought a giant head of President Bush, threw shoes at it and covered it with shoes before ending their protest.

They also brought bags of shoes representing Iraqis and US soldiers who have died since the Bush Administration's "illegal invasion" of Iraq.

The peace activists urged the Iraqi government to release Mr Zaidi without charges and have set up a fund to support him and his family.

At the White House, Press Secretary Dana Perino said the president had "no hard feelings" about the Iraqi journalist who flung shoes at him.

Asked if Mr Zaidi should be forgiven, Ms Perino said Mr Bush trusted Iraq's legal system to decide an appropriate punishment for the assault.

The protesters outside the White House also displayed names of thousands of Iraqis killed in the war. The display contained their names, ages, places where they were killed and how they were killed.

"These are real people," said Gael Murphy, one of the cofounders of the Code Pink which along with three of the groups had participated in the protest. "They were killed because of the US invasion."

Later, representatives for Code Pink, Women for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Veterans for Peace told a news conference that they had come to White House to remind the Bush administration and the American people that "Mr Bush is directly responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqis and 4,200 US troops".

They noted that the war also displaced more than five million Iraqis.

"Bush is the real criminal, not al-Zaidi," said one of them. "Al-Zaidi speaks for millions of people across the world."

"Arrest Bush, not Zaidi," chanted the protesters as they marched outside the White House. "Bush is a war criminal," shouted the protesters as they spanked a giant picture of the US president with shoes.

The speakers who addressed the news conference noted that Mr Zaidi had become something of a folk-hero in the Arab world, and his shoe-throwing had become a symbol of dissatisfaction with 'Bush's bungled war in Iraq'.