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Wednesday, October 5, 2000

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For some, today was about their messages
Waste incinerator, Mideast protests

By JOE LAWLOR
and RAYMOND L. SMITH
Tribune Chronicle

WARREN - Richard Wolf smiled ruefully, which curled the tips of his thin white moustache, when talking about the treatment he and fellow protesters received during Vice President Al Gore's visit Wednesday.

Gore volunteers blocked them when they held up signs protesting the Waste Technologies Industries hazardous waste incinerator plant in East Liverpool. The Gore camp held up signs larger than the WTI signs, blocking them from the view of television and newspaper cameras directly across the stage on Courthouse Square.

But Wolf and members of the Tri-State Environmental Council said they did not expect anything other than shoddy treatment from the Gore campaign at the Warren rally.

"We're Al's albatross," Wolf said.

Also protesting Wednesday were a number of Palestinians who said the violence should stop against their people in Israel.

The East Liverpool group has been protesting the plant -- which they say is an environmental danger because it emits mercury and other chemicals in a residential area -- since it opened seven years ago. Company officials say the plant poses no public health threat.

The group remembers when Al Gore, campaigning in 1992, promised them that he would not permit the plant to open.

Group leader Terri Swearingen said she remembers every day, and they are planning on making sure Gore does not forget.

"At the time he told us he understood what we were going through. He called it ŕunbelievable.' But he broke his promise. That's what this issue is about. Who can you trust? This was the first promise he made, and this was the first promise he broke," Swearingen said.

They have been at every Gore rally within reasonable driving distance from East Liverpool.

They held a sit-down protest inside the White House, and were arrested for "failure to quit."

They were not permitted into a Gore rally in Pittsburgh, as security were checking identification of some of the people attending the rally, she said.

"They had our names highlighted from a New York Times article," said Swearingen, who pointed out that their cause has attracted national newspaper and television coverage. "They said we couldn't enter even though we had tickets."

But in Warren, they made it to the front of the "blue ticket" area, the second-closest region, about 20 yards from Gore.

"If he just gets a glimpse of us that's all that matters," Wolf said. "We know we're not going to get an exchange of ideas."

Alonzo Spencer held up a "WTI Spells Death" sign, and pointed out that East Elementary School is less than a mile away from the incinerator. Smoke from the incinerator regularly blows into the doors and windows of the school, he said.

"Would Al Gore want to send his kids to East Elementary?" Spencer said. "They can try to drown us out, but the fact is that we will be at every stop that he's at in this area. If this takes us all the way to the White House, so be it."

Just outside the rally, more than two dozen people of Arab descent were stopped outside the exterior fence on East Market Street by a line of firefighters chanting "USA, USA"

The protesters carried signs with the picture of a father holding the body of his slain son in his arms.

The Palestinians held their signs and posters higher in the air, shouting: "Stop the Violence. Start the Peace."

Behind them, the vice president asked the crowds of thousands of Mahoning Valley residents to help him end the barriers that separate one people from another.

Eyad Aburahma of Liberty tried to tell the firefighters that the group was not in the area to protest the vice president.

"We are Democrats just as they are," Aburahma said. "We are not against anyone who is working to make our land safer. Right now we have young people throwing rocks against people with guns. It is rocks against guns We have to stop the violence."

Wzi Aldamimi of Youngstown was almost hoarse from shouting.

"Our families are being killed by Israeli soldiers," Aldamimi said. "We need the peace process to get started again. I had an uncle killed. My wife had family members killed. They are not killing soldiers. They are killing children.

"As Muslim people we do not believe in violence," he said. "We want to find ways back to the peace table."

Adam Rasoum of Hubbard said they want to convince the American politicians that the killing of children anywhere in the world is wrong.

"The killing of any child anywhere in the world is against human rights of any people," Rasoum said. "They do not have anything against governments or anyone."

"I can only hope Mr. Gore sees our viewpoint," he said. "So far, more than 1,000 people have been injured; more than 70 people have been killed. We are not against Mr. Gore. We are looking for someone who is going to help end the bloodshed."

Jawad Niser of Youngstown said he would like to see a change in U.S. policy toward the Middle East.

"What is happening to the Palestinian people is worse than what happened in South Africa," he said.


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