Saturday, July 30, 2011
ARAB SPRING REACHES DC SUMMER
Even with the specter of an unprecedented default hanging over America, another evidence that despite its political troubles, it remains a battleground for ideas and principles.
Syrians in the United States, either supporting or opposing Syria’s beleaguered leader Bashar Assad, hurled slogans against each other in front of the White House, separated by a thin, yellow police tape stretched across Pennsylvania Avenue.
Assad’s bloody crackdown against his own people has drawn international condemnation. State Secretary Hillary Clinton bluntly declared the US has nothing invested in seeing him continue in power.
Clinton indicated that as far as the Obama administration is concerned, Assad is no different from Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, the subject of a NATO-led military offensive.
The Libyan civil war and unrest in Syria represent the bloodiest face of the so-called Arab Spring that removed overstaying leaders in Egypt and Tunisia. Democracy uprisings have also erupted in other parts of the Middle East, from the Arab Emirates to Yemen.
The anti-Assad group made their anger and hostility plain. They scooped some horse manure left by police mounts with Assad’s picture and left it to dry under the scorching heat.
The pro-Assad group carried their leader’s picture with pride and near reverence. They demanded the US keeps its hands off their conflict.
Metro DC has been suffering from a withering heat wave most of the week, with the mercury breaking the 100-degree mark just the day before.
“The US is broke!” yelled one bystander at the demonstrators. “You’re not even Americans!” he continued in rage.
The police watched almost amusedly as the two groups tried to out-shout each other, waving contrasting flags. The pro-Assad faction carried flags with the red-white-black combination; the anti-Assad group's flag was colored green-white-black.
Tourists continued to take souvenir shots in front of the White House. About a dozen men continued unperturbed their roller-skate hockey game near the White House's northeast gate.
The Syrian's acoustic contest stopped only when a police cruiser, sirens and flashers on, slowly drove by to create space for a larger group of protesting teachers who marched past the White House.
Being the perceived global epicenter of free speech sometimes make hot DC summers also noisier and certainly livelier.