NATO meeting in Washington draws tight security and protests FWD

Tom Boland (
Tue, 27 Apr 1999 10:16:41 -0700 (PDT)

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Can anyone give an eye-witness account of events surrounding last weekend's
NATO meeting in Washington, D. C.?
FWD  Associated Press - Friday, April 23, 1999


     By Paul Shepard - Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hundreds of Albanian-Americans chanted ``bomb, NATO,
bomb,'' as groups with strongly divergent views on the airstrikes against
Yugoslavia rallied today on the opening day of the alliance's 50th
anniversary summit.

Carrying the red and black flag of Albania along with the U.S. flag, some
400 protesters organized by the National Albanian-American Council gathered
in front of the White House to observe a moment of silence.

``Not all Serbs are bad people. It is just the brutal regime we are
fighting,'' said Nick Mehmeti, a businessman from Dallas who flew in for
the rally. ``It is too late for negotiations at this point. Seventy-five
percent of our villages are burned and 75 percent of our people are
homeless. We support the NATO troops, but we want them to put in ground
troops also. Better yet, arm the KLA and we can take care of our own.''

At the Washington Monument, dozens of protesters organized by the Fourth
Freedom Forum opposed the airstrikes.

``Our focus is the present nuclear dilemma facing the world,'' said Alisair
Miller, director of the group's Washington office. ``NATO's nuclear weapons
were introduced decades ago to counter a perceived threat that no longer

Miller said he feared that potential protesters were scared away because of
reports about the tight security imposed in Washington because of the

A local Serbian church organized a protest for Saturday calling for an end
to the bombing campaign.

``We are protesting the bombing because we consider it illegal and civilian
people are being killed,'' said Zoran Hodjera, congregation president of
St. Luke Serbian Orthodox Church in Washington, which is organizing the

Hodjera, the Serbian Orthodox church official, said any atrocities against
ethnic Albanians that the Serb-led government are accused of were brought
on by the bombing campaign.

``Before the bombing, we had only minor problems,'' Hodjera said. ``We
never had any true negotiations between the parties. That avenue was never
pursued properly.''

U.S. Park Police officials said permits were given to the three groups for
summit-related protests.

The protests struck a sobering note during what has been planned as the
largest gathering of foreign leaders ever to visit Washington.

Even in a city well accustomed to the high security measures accorded
important guests, the safety measures surrounding the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization summit are bringing together 18 law enforcement agencies, led
by the Secret Service.

Just because there have been no credible threats of terrorist attack so far
``doesn't mean that in any way our vigilance is low or that our guard is
not up,'' said Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder said. ``We are prepared
for just about anything.''

For the three days of the meeting, downtown Washington has become one big
high-security area for dignitaries.

Federal workers in the city's core around the White House were excused from
work Friday. Many private businesses followed the government's lead.
Vehicle and pedestrian traffic will be blocked in the vicinity of the
summit headquarters through the weekend.

Parents of Washington, D.C. school students received letters this week
notifying them schools would be closed Friday and all athletic events
scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday would be canceled and rescheduled
for a later date.


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
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