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March 26 fifth avenue blockade/protest

1. Occupation of Fifth Avenue
2. Witness to Israeli war crimes
3. Caterpillar "bulldozer"
4. Nonviolent protestors soaked with coffee thrown by onlookers
5. Traffic halted by die-in
6. Israeli "bulldozer" stained with blood
7. Bloodied witness chanting against the occupation
8. Another witness, stained with blood
9. Protestors lay at the feet of police
10. Protestors form human chain across Fifth ave.
11. "Bulldozer" faces demonstrators and traffic
12. Police sawing through lockbox
13. Protestors sprawled across crosswalk

Photo credits: 6,8,12 Siobhan McGrath. All others by Fred Askew

PRESS RELEASE For immediate release

Date: March 26, 2003
Contact: (917) 517-3627

NY PROTESTERS "DIE IN" UNDER BULLDOZER AT BANK LEUMI, SHUT DOWN 5TH AVE Non-violent protest highlights Israel's use of Iraq war as cover for new assaults on Palestinians

PHOTOS online at protest.html (call for hi-res photos) VIDEO available request by phone

New York At a New York branch of Israel's Bank Leumi, eighteen protesters locked together as a human barricade across Fifth Avenue at 9am this morning. Covered in fake blood, the protesters lay piled in the street at the foot of a mock Caterpillar bulldozer. The act of civil disobedience referenced the murder of US peace activist Rachel Corrie by an Israel army Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza earlier this month.

Chanting "Occupation is a crime, from Iraq to Palestine," the protesters shut down Fifth Avenue for over an hour, refusing to let New York go about its business while the US war on Iraq places the lives of Palestinians at greater risk than ever.

Police became stained with red liquid as they arrested the die-in participants. Sixteen protesters were roughly taken into custody, adding to the ranks of the nearly 1000 peaceful anti-war demonstrators violently removed from New York streets over the last several weeks. Video witnesses recorded police officers dragging protesters painfully across the street. Protesters were also subjected to violence from onlookers, who kicked, spat at and threw things at the peaceful protesters as they lay motionless in the street.

"This war is realizing the worst fears of Palestinians," said protester Mark Field, a New York activist against the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. "While the world's attention is focused on Iraq and Arabs are cast as the enemy, Israel has stepped up its assaults on Palestinian towns. Under cover of war, Israel is freer than ever to label every Palestinian a terrorist, to detain civilians indefinitely, to demolish civilian homes and seize additional Palestinian lands."

"Bank Leumi is a pillar of Israeli finance, with $51 billion in assets. The illegal occupation of Palestinian towns and the killing of civilians are supported by Bank Leumi's investments in the Israeli military economy," said protester Rachel Fineberg, a Jewish human rights activist. "Enough is enough we're shutting this war machine down."

"We are human rights activists many of us have seen the incredible violations of Palestinian human rights first-hand," said protester Lila Greene, a queer activist who visited the West Bank to support non-violent Palestinian organizing in 2002. "We refuse to allow Israel to remove us as witnesses to war crimes. The Israeli army killed Rachel Corrie, they killed Iain Hook and they regularly kill Palestinian non-violent organizers but they can't bury the truth. Neither Israel nor the United States can commit war crimes in secret anymore. The whole world is watching."