Peace march in US canceled before Mideast Summit due to security (11/27/07)
By Brian Witte, and David Dishneau, Associated Press Writers
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP, 11/27/07) — With security tightening ahead of a Mideast peace conference in the U.S., a march to an interfaith rally was called off Sunday because organizers were told local police could not spare the extra personnel needed along the route.
Organizers had planned to walk from Temple Beth Shalom to a World War II memorial overlooking the U.S. Naval Academy, where the peace conference is scheduled for Tuesday. Participants ended up taking school buses to the rally instead.
“As you can see, the march didn't happen, but that is a police decision and not a synagogue decision,'' Rabbi Ari Goldstein of Temple Beth Shalom told participants at the memorial.
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of The Israel Project, which helped prepare for the event, said authorities told organizers that there were not enough officers available to spread along the planned route. Several Anne Arundel County police monitored the flow of traffic at the memorial.
“This conference is putting tremendous strain on the local security establishment,'' Mizrahi said. “To have so many world leaders coming here, it's quite a strain.''
The canceled march was another sign of strict security.
The Federal Aviation Administration has banned all aircraft except military, law enforcement and emergency medical flights within 2 nautical miles horizontally and 4,000 feet vertically of the Naval Academy from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to a notice posted on the agency's Web site.
Boating restrictions at the mouth of the Severn River near the Naval Academy probably will be announced Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard said. On Sunday, the broad expanse of blue water where the river meets the Chesapeake Bay was crowded with sailboats.
The campus will be closed Monday and Tuesday to general visitors, the Naval Academy said.
The city of Annapolis, which has a population of about 36,000, has announced closures Tuesday of the streets just outside the academy's main visitor gate. Shalom International, a group that opposes the summit, has planned rallies there both Monday and Tuesday.
City spokesman Ray Weaver said all public works projects have been suspended through Tuesday, including maintenance of the red-brick sidewalks in the colonial historic district just outside the Naval Academy walls.
People attending Christian services Sunday in the academy's chapel were urged to pray for a successful summit.
“It's a great moment for us,'' Capt. Pete McGeory, the Catholic chaplain, said in an interview. “It's historic and we hope and pray that things do work out well.''
At the peace rally Sunday, more than 100 people gathered at the World War II memorial. Imam Mohamed Arafa, president of the Islamic Society of Annapolis, prayed that political leaders will commit themselves to the peace process.
“I dream that Annapolis will be a role model to how Jews, Christians and Muslims and other faiths can live in peace together,'' he told participants.
William Hathaway of the First Presbyterian Church told the crowd it was the job of preachers to announce a vision for “righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,'' but it was a politician's job “to work out the plumbing.''
“It is not easy, but we share the vision and we share the prayers, and we call upon our political leaders to follow that vision and that prayer so that we can have just, secure lives for Israelis and for Palestinians,'' Hathaway said.