Assault charges against principal are dropped Sharif El-Mekki was at an antiwar protest when police questioned his son and tensions rose. By Robert Moran Inquirer Staff Writer
A Municipal Court judge dismissed charges yesterday against a Philadelphia middle school principal who allegedly assaulted police during an antiwar protest of President Bush's visit to Center City on Monday.
Amid a throng of protesters gathered on Broad Street south of Walnut, police confronted Sharif El-Mekki's 15-year-old son about a container of yellow liquid, which was later determined to be lemonade.
El-Mekki, 34, then reportedly confronted police about what was going on, and an altercation erupted during the midday demonstration while Bush spoke across the street at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue in support of the Iraq war.
Municipal Judge Linda F. Anderson discharged two counts of aggravated assault and related offenses against El-Mekki for lack of evidence.
El-Mekki, of West Philadelphia, is principal of Anna H. Shaw Middle School at 54th Street and Warrington Avenue. He had been temporarily reassigned to the district's central office pending the outcome of the court case, said Paul Vallas, school district chief executive. El-Mekki decided to take some personal days off instead.
Vallas called El-Mekki a "terrific principal" and said his job is not in jeopardy. Vallas expressed sympathy for El-Mekki's actions on Monday.
"I don't know how I would have reacted if my kid were pushed or knocked down," Vallas said.
The incident occurred outside the Italian Bistro restaurant when a plainclothes officer, Samer Musallam, spotted the container and asked a uniformed officer, Mary Friend, to check it out, said Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Naylor.
As tensions heightened, El-Mekki allegedly shoved Friend in the chest and struck Musallam in the face with a forearm, Naylor said.
El-Mekki's brother Mikyeil, 32, also was arrested, but was released without being charged.
El-Mekki's mother, Aisha, 58, called the entire episode "a civics lesson for my grandson," Ali.
She also attended the antiwar demonstration with her family. She said it was hard for her to see what was happening with the police.
"I know my son. He's not a violent person," she said. "He's a calm person. He's very rational."
They were among an estimated 1,000 demonstrators and onlookers assembled outside as Bush spoke to the World Affairs Council.
MIM: Among the groups organising the demonstration attended by Sharif El Mekki and family was a group campaigning for the release of cop killer Abu Mumia Jamal and Brandywine Peace Community which posted these articles on their website.
Bush was in Philadelphia earlier today speaking of "staying the course" in Iraq.
As promised there was another voice in Phila. today as the world's chief war-maker spoke before the Phila. World Affairs Council at the Park Hyatt Phila. at the Bellevue, Broad & Walnut Streets. It was a voice - that stretched a city block - protesting the Bush Agenda of War & Militarism, of "Staying the Course" of Death and Occupation, Corporate Greed in the Face of Human Need.
THANK YOU to everyone that gave voice to the demonstration of our opposition. THANK YOU to all the groups which made it a success:
Brandywine Peace Community (610-544-1818), House of Grace Catholic Worker, Jobs with Justice, Phila. International Action Center, Military Families Speak Out, Shalom Center, Suburban Greens, Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Delaware Co. Wage Peace & Justice, Coalition for Peace Action (Delaware & Chester Counties), PRAWN (Phila. Regional Anti-War Network), PeaceCenter of DelawareCounty, Global Women's
Strike, Payday, Avenging the Ancestors Coalition, Uhuru, International Concerned Families & Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal, African American Freedom & Reconstruction League, Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, Coalition for Peace Action (Montgomery & BucksCounty), Phila. Committee to Free the 5, Grandparents for Peace in the Middle East, and the Southeast PA Chapter of the Americans for Democratic Action.
Bob Smith, Staffperson, Brandywine Peace Community
Posted on Tue, Dec. 13, 2005
2 arrested in Phila. protest
About 1,000 protesters and onlookers massed on Broad Street. Some said officers assaulted the arrested men. By Robert Moran and Daniel Rubin Inquirer Staff Writers
Police arrested two antiwar protesters - who some witnesses alleged were assaulted by officers - as almost 1,000 demonstrators and onlookers assembled yesterday outside the CenterCity hotel where President Bush spoke in support of his Iraq war effort.
Police said they would charge one of the men with assaulting an officer.
Bush's motorcade arrived at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue at and was greeted by a chorus of boos from a crowd assembled mainly across Broad Street just south of Walnut.
By the time he departed at , the crowd had swelled with curious bystanders and a small contingent of Bush supporters. As Bush drove away, someone threw a snowball at the motorcade, but it splattered harmlessly on the street.
Meanwhile, a scuffle broke out between police and two brothers who were protesting. One brother was charged with assaulting an officer, and the other went to a hospital to be treated for the possible aggravation of recent hernia surgery, his mother said.
Aisha K. El Mekki, 58, said a man who turned out to be a plainclothes officer jumped on her 15-year-old grandson, who was carrying a clear glass of yellow liquid.
The liquid was lemonade.
When El Mekki's son, Sharif, 34, the boy's father, demanded to know what was going on, the plainclothes officer accosted him, witnesses said. Sharif's brother, Mikyeil, 32, also joined the altercation, which occurred outside the Italian Bistro restaurant.
Sharif El Mekki was to be charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, said Inspector William Colarulo, a Police Department spokesman.
Mikyeil El Mekki was taken to HahnemannUniversityHospital for treatment. His mother said he had hernia surgery several months ago and may have aggravated it during the scuffle.
Colarulo said Mikyeil would not be charged.
Capt. William Fisher, who was in charge of crowd control, said a plainclothes officer not assigned to his unit did get into a "physical confrontation." He said he did not know who the officer was.
Fisher said the two men, whom he helped lead into a police wagon, "didn't look like they were traumatized."
As the antiwar demonstration grew while Bush spoke inside the hotel, Fisher described the gathering as "an orderly but angry crowd" that peaked at 1,000 people.
While some younger protesters shouted profanities, Marvin Thall, 79, quietly held a sign declaring that "Murtha is Right - Bush is Wrong," referring to the Pennsylvania congressman who has called for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
Thall, who served a year in U.S.-occupied Japan after World War II, said the current conflict had "dragged the nation into a bad mess."
While some activists oppose any hostility, Thall said the United States could keep a strike force near Iraq, perhaps at sea.
"I'm not saying 100 percent withdrawal tomorrow. I'm saying as soon as possible," Thall said.
Jim Moyer, 22, watched the demonstration from a different, personal perspective.
Moyer, a Marine lance corporal from MountLaurel, returned home this year after seven months in Iraq.
"I respect their right to freedom of speech," he said of the protesters. "I just don't agree with them."
Moyer said he supported the President and the goal of the war, which he said was "to establish a secure and democratic nation in the country of Iraq."
He added, "I support my commander in chief no matter what."
The war is also personal for Celeste Zappala, 58, of MountAiry, who gained national attention for protesting the war after the death of her son, Sherwood Baker, 30, in Baghdad last year.
She sharply criticized the President.
"I'm a witness to what the real cost of war is," she said. "This is my son's life. It's lost to this man's deception, to his lies and his morality."
Some experts say president needs to do better in explaining Iraq plan
By STEPHANIE K. WHALEN , email@example.com
When President Bush arrived in the birthplace of American independence Monday, it wasn't your average, $10,000 World Affairs luncheon, say political academics. Three days shy of Iraq's first democratic elections -- and with increasing pressure over declining public-opinion polls -- the president's visit was a calculated chess move in the game of power politics, according to Villanova political science professor Matt Kerbel.
"These speeches in Philly, along with those in several other cities over the past few days, are designed to try to convince people to support his decision to continue efforts in Iraq," said Kerbel.
"Public support is the basic premise of leadership. Without that support, his power weakens and his policies don't seem viable."
According to the most recent data from The Associated Press, 58 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's tactics in Iraq.
Bob Smith of the Brandywine Peace Community said polls conducted in Iraq showed an even higher disapproval rate of 80 percent, with 40 percent of those polled agreeing it's acceptable to kill Americans to force an end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
However, as the president has given rallying speeches in three U.S. cities within the past month, his approval ratings have increased by about 5 percent.
Edward Turzanski, a LaSalleUniversity political science professor and senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said it's hard to say whether the president's speeches caused that recent boost, but agreed that public opinion was one of the driving forces behind his visit Monday to Philadelphia.
"The administration has realized that critics of Iraq have seized public opinion, and not necessarily with accurate facts," he said.
"(Bush) has a responsibility to the American people to get up and articulate his policy in an honest and factual manner. As he does that, he turns a murky outlook into clarity -- and looks good as a result."
Politically speaking, Kerbel said pressure from the president's own party could have pushed him towards Philly this week, fearing that his stigma would threaten Republican control in the next election.
Or, Bush may have simply run out of options.
"The president can control news agendas and make any effort to persuade the public to follow him, but when he's operating in a hostile climate as Bush is, odds are long that he can change public opinion with speeches," he said.
"It's not enough to be optimistic and point to progress if people aren't inclined to see it. Short of changing his policy, what's left are the tools of public relations."
It was like a war protest of old on Broad Street outside the Park Hyatt yesterday at when the president was giving a speech to the World Affairs Council about the Iraq war.
A man was singing a wobbly rendition of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" and a recording of Joan Baez's "Amazing Grace" followed.
Scores of protesters chanted U.S. Out of Iraq and Bush Lies, People Die.
Hand scrawled placards blamed Bush and capitalism, celebrated unions, and declared solidarity with Cindy Sheehan, the mother of an soldier killed in the line of duty who has become the face of the anti-war movement.
About , across the street from the hotel, there was a disturbance. A West Philadelphia woman named Aisha El Mekki said police grabbed her 15-year-old grandson as he was walking down the sidewalk across from the hotel. They had come to protest the war, and he was carrying a clear glass of hot lemonade. His father and uncle protested, and she says police hit them with batons. Two hours later, she said one was in the police lock-up; the other had been hospitalized.
MIM: Indymedia has called for witnesses and asked people to show support for the El Mekki family.
Philly Peace Protest Turns Violent as Police Lose Their Cool
PhillyActivist , 15.12.2005 14:16
When George Bush's motorcade rolled into Center City Philadelphia today the President was greeted with a loud and sustained chorus of boos and whistles from the crowd of protesters that assembled outside the president's hotel. Bush was in town to deliver a speech about the latest in Iraq.
Bush In Philadelphia
"Messenger" posted on the newswire: IMC.....please post an article, We heard rumors of a demonstration and police brutality.
here is a report from Monday...
Philly Peace Protest Turns Violent as Police Lose Their Cool (again)
When George Bush's motorcade rolled into Center City Philadelphia today the President was greeted with a loud and sustained chorus of boos and whistles from the crowd of protesters that assembled outside the president's hotel. Bush was in town to deliver a speech about the latest in Iraq. (transcripts of Bush's speech) This was the 3rd in a series of four events staged by the White House to respond to critcs of Bush's Iraq policy. Later across town, Pennslyvania Congressman John Murtha, the hawkish democrat and war veteran whose recent challenge to end the war effectively reframed the Iraq debate, responded to the president's latest Iraq assessment charging that the continued US presence in Iraq undermines any political progress. "The Iraqis are not against democracy!" Murtha said, "they are against our occupation."
It was towards the end of today's protest that things turned decidedly nasty as police charged the crowd, clubs in hand, wrestling a number of protesters to the ground. What had been a peaceful and pleasent demonstration quickly disovled into mayham and confusion as Philly's finest essentially turned "attack dog" on the crowd. It was not immediately clear what kind of threat the cops perceived when they began their assult on the crowd, but they arrested two (black) men who had joined today's rally with their family. Just a few minutes before the altercation, I actually spoke to the two men involved. When they were initailly approched by the plain-clothed policeman none of us had any idea that this guy was a cop. He seemed like a goon to me, out to cause trouble. While the plain-clothes policeman was wrestling one of the men to the ground, his shirt was raised, exposing his badge and gun. Almost immediately, a half dozen more cops (all in uniform) descended on the scene. I believe their aggressive response just made things worse, basically scaring the shit out of everyone at the scene. All the while the crowd chanted out "the world is watching!!" and "SHAME!!" I should note that the fracas was also witnesses by the young sons and the grandmother of the victims who looked on in horror while police brought all the force they had to bear on the two men. No one had any idea at the time what could have possibly provoked the police to act out on the crowd like that.
Local media later reported that police had concerns that one of the men involved was carrying a dangerous object, which turned out to actually be a glass of hot cider. Harmless enough, if you ask me, afterall it was freezing outside. I also later learned from a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter that one of the men involved was taken to the hospital and released. The other is in lockup at the 9th Police District, charged with assult on a police officer. Bitterly ironic.
here's what we know 15.12.2005 - 22:35 What happened at the protest? My information is, not a heck of a lot. Some young kid was detained because he was carrying a glass of lemonade, some over-excitable undercover police officer reached the wildly-overheated conclusion that the glass contained a corrosive liquid that the kid was going to splash someone with, so he detained the young citizen. Naturally, some adults who were with the kid got very upset at seeing some unidentified stranger try to grab their kid and forcefully intervened. Those adults were arrested. Would they have been arrested if they were white? Heck, would the kid have aroused anyone's attention had he beeen white? I'm white myself, but I kinda doubt it. Pictures of the demonstration plus pics of the arrest at http://www.sauvessanges.com/Bushinphilaworldaffairscouncil1.html Pictures taken by anti-war activist Monique.
The version given by PhillyActivist is:
There was an unprovoked attack by an unidentified, armed plainsclothes police officer at Monday's protest against Bush in Philadelphia, resulting in arrests of two members of the El-Mekki family, and an injury to one of the men arrested. We have some accounts from witnesses that attest to the fact that there was no provocation from the people arrested, but would like to hear back from anyone who happened to witness the attack. Please contact Betsey Piette at 610-352-3053.
We would also appreciate any support that can be given to the El-Mekki family. Let us know if you can help. Rich Gardner>