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
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,
"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
"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.