WASHINGTON - Street demonstrations, teach-ins, vigils, and "freezes" are among the events planned for this weekend as part of a nationwide protest against what are widely perceived to be moves by the George W. Bush administration toward military conflict with Iran.
"Freezes," involving a large number of people standing in place for five minutes, are planned for key locations in New York City such as Grand Central Station and Penn Station, as well as Chicago's Millennium Park and Santa Monica, California.
The term and new form of street action derive from the state of U.S.-Iran relations. The Bush administration says Iran must freeze its uranium enrichment program in order to "defrost" relations between the two countries and avoid further sanctions.
Elsewhere anti-war and religious groups, students, trade unions, and others will participate in "Call to Action: No War with Iran" co-sponsored by New York-based United for Peace and Justice and Washington, D.C.-based Peace Action.
Actions are planned in such diverse locations as Champaign-Urbana, Illinois; Melbourne, Florida; Philadelphia; San Francisco; and Waterloo, Iowa.
Two thirds of Americans asked during a recent Gallup poll whether they favor diplomatic initiatives or military action against Iran said they wanted the U.S. government to pursue peaceful negotiations.
While demonstrators around the United States drive home that point, a high-ranking U.S. diplomat will attend a meeting Saturday in Switzerland with an Iranian diplomat -- a rare break with Bush administration practice that has largely shunned direct talks with Iranian officials.
William Burns will attend the Geneva meeting involving Iran and a group of European Union countries trying to break through the current impasse, but White House spokesperson Dana Perino has characterized Burns' presence as a "one-time U.S. participation."
The meeting is aimed at convincing Iran to accept a package of incentives offered last month by Western nations, in exchange for ceasing to enrich uranium.
To date Iran has rejected the package, and earlier this month held highly publicized missile tests to show its level of seriousness. At the same time, rumors were rife that Washington is working behind the scenes with Israel to prepare a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Some experts argue that these rumors, whether or not they are true, have a negative impact by fueling Iranian nationalism, entrenching the stance of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, heightening tensions, and ultimately leading to intransigence and events such as the Iranian missile tests.
Media reports suggest that a pro-Israel lobby group is pressuring Congress to impose a naval blockade on Iran, which would be considered an act of war.
In response, protestors in Columbus, Ohio plan a "Peace Boat Blockade" for Monday, involving a march on the offices of Republican Congressman Patrick Tiberi, who supports the blockade, carrying toy boats, submarines, and airplanes to "demonstrate the crazy policy that this blockade symbolizes."
The demonstrations are scheduled for Jul. 19-21. Following the series of street actions planned for Saturday and Sunday, Monday has been designated "Congressional Education Day." Protestors will lobby Congress to hold back plans for war with Iran.
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