Anti-war protesters target U.S. consulate
The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, December 20, 2008 6:33PM EST
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 9:47PM EDT
MONTREAL - Anti-war protesters held symbolic shoe tosses Saturday in Montreal and Toronto in support of jailed Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi.
About 40 protesters in both cities braved the cold to let fly in front of their respective U.S consulates and celebrate al-Zeidi's actions.
Demonstrators in Montreal pelted a black-and-white presidential photograph with boots, shoes and slippers and denounced the U.S. war in Iraq and the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, before marching to a downtown Canadian Forces recruiting station.
"Today is an act of humour in a sense but it's also a profound situation and context," activist and journalist Stephan Christoff told the Montreal crowd.
"We're talking about a situation where hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives in Iraq. It is George Bush who holds a direct responsibility for the devastating, horrific situation of occupation and imperialism in Iraq."
Organizers also urged local journalists to ditch their veneer of objectivity by lobbing footwear at the image.
"We want to break this ideal that journalists stand in this world of objectivity, stand in this world where opinions don't exist," said Christoff.
Iraqi-born Amar Sabih is an adjunct-professor at McGill University in Montreal and a long-time opponent to the Iraq war.
"Most Iraqis would have liked to be in (Al-Zeidi's) shoes," he said.
"He's a symbol for all Iraqis."
Sabih said his family, who live in Baghdad, also support al-Zeidi's actions.
"They liked it, they enjoyed it," he said.
Amir Khadir, who was elected to the legislature in this month's provincial election under the banner of the leftist party Quebec Solidaire, was one of the first to chuck a shoe. He said al-Zeidi's actions were simply an expression of rage at the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the war.
"I represent the deep sentiment of thousands of members of assemblies all over the world," he said.
"Bush has denied democracy and lied to millions of people. He deserves no respect."
In Toronto, a dirty pair of sneakers was stuck toe up in a high pile of fresh snow, protesters clutched red and aqua-blue flip-flops with messages like "Shame on Bush" and "Bush out/Mass Killer" scrawled on the soles and embraced the comedic side of al-Zeidi's actions.
Dressed in a Santa Claus suit and white beard, Hicham Safieddine handed out the shoes as "gifts."
"I thought I'd do something a little bit humorous, not every protest has to be serious," he said.
"It's a non-violent form of our protest against the fact we still have an occupation in Iraq, we still have people dying".
Others took turns leading the shivering but spirited crowd in chants like "Give Harper the shoe!"
"We don't think of Muntadhar al-Zeidi as a criminal but, in fact, we think of him as a hero," said Ahmed Habib, a refugee from Baghdad.
"The only war criminal is George Bush and his buddy Stephen Harper, so shame on the both of them."
As several passing cars honked horns in solidarity, Habib added he hopes Canadian journalists will find the courage to throw shoes at Prime Minister Stephen Harper until he pulls Canadian troops from Afghanistan.
Al-Zeidi hurled his shoes at Bush during a news conference last week and yelled an angry farewell in which he blamed the president for the bloodshed in his country that's left behind countless widows and orphans.
He added: "This is a farewell kiss, you dog!"
He has been detained and is expected to face charges of insulting a foreign leader, which could result in a two-year prison sentence.
He is also rumoured to have been beaten.
Since the incident, a surge of games and websites have sprung up immortalizing the shoe-throwing and the journalist has become a sort of global folk hero.
Bloomberg News reported the Turkish shoemaker who made al-Zeidi's shoes has been flooded with over 300,000 orders for the same model.
They're considering renaming it the "Bye-bye Bush."