Calls for protest over U.S. activist death

March 17, 2003 at 5:09 PM
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OLYMPIA, Wash., March 17 (UPI) -- A clarion call went out Monday for activists to protest the death of an American college student who was run over by an Israeli bulldozer as it razed a home in the Gaza Strip over the weekend.

A statement on the Web site of the International Solidarity Movement called for demonstrations at the Israeli Embassy and at Israeli consulates around the United States in the wake of 23-year-old Rachael Corrie's death on Sunday.

"Her death is a particularly horrifying example of the cold-blooded dehumanization that characterizes this occupation," the group's missive from Gaza stated.

Corrie, a senior at Evergreen State College in Olympia, was among a group of 6-8 Americans and Britons who were on the scene Sunday when Israeli military engineers moved in with a bulldozer to demolish a Gaza-area home suspected of being linked to terrorists.

Witnesses said that Corrie, dressed in a bright red jacket and wielding a bullhorn, had been standing atop a pile of dirt and rubble trying to get the bulldozer to stop and apparently fell in front of the machine. Israeli officials called Corrie's death an accident, although her fellow activists said the Israeli driver could see the woman and deliberately ran her over.

"The group reports that the driver tipped sand over her, at which point she fell down," the organization said in a press release. "He then drove the machine over her while the rest of the group screamed at him to stop. After crushing her body with the forward motion of the vehicle, he then reversed."

The organization, which was formed two years ago to send foreigners -- known in Gaza as "internationals" -- into Palestinian territories to help resist Israel's practice of knocking down the residences of relatives of terrorists.

The International Solidarity Movement claimed that the house where Corrie was killed was not connected to any terrorists and was being torn down because internationals had been staying there and it was near a planned buffer zone.

Reaction to the young woman's death in the Pacific Northwest was largely muted as stunned friends and supporters turned out for previously scheduled candlelight vigils Sunday night at Evergreen and at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Officials at Evergreen said late Sunday that a memorial service for the college senior would be held at a later date.

"Rachel is described by faculty and staff as a shining star, a wonderful student and a brave person of deep convictions," the college said in a press release.

People who knew Corrie told reporters that the Olympia native had long been devoted to social causes, particularly the plight of the Palestinians.

"She wasn't just about being a human shield," Phan Nguyen, 28, a friend and fellow activist who made similar trips to the West Bank, told The Olympian. "She was trying to set up pen pals for grade school students in Rafah and Olympia."

Steve Hughes, a classmate of Corrie's at Olympia's Capital High School, told the newspaper that his friend "could not abide the injustices she saw our government participate in with other countries."

"She worked tirelessly for social justice," Hughes said. "She felt she had to take it another step. Her decision to go to Palestine was a logical progression for her."

(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles)

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