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Jostling for Attention, Demonstrators Swarm Naval Academy Gates

Demonstrators outside the Naval Academy during the peace conference included Bob Kunst of Shalom International and Betty Dudney of Peace Bakersville.
Demonstrators outside the Naval Academy during the peace conference included Bob Kunst of Shalom International and Betty Dudney of Peace Bakersville. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)

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By William Wan and Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

While leaders from the Middle East struggled to hammer out their differences at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis yesterday, another fight over territory and tensions took shape outside the institution.

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Demonstrators from more than a dozen groups flocked to the academy throughout the day, and with each new group that arrived came another skirmish for airtime and precious demonstrating space in front of the gates.

With swarms of Christian, Palestinian and Jewish activists expected, one group's strategy was to be the first on the scene.

Shalom International, a pro-Israel group opposed to the peace conference, started its rally at 10 a.m. The group's promptness seemed to pay off at first as members snapped up ideal spots in front of the gates and scored interviews with the gaggle of media representatives camped out front. But 15 minutes later, news crews were already pulling away to follow a second group headed toward the gate.

"Who are you guys? What are you here for?" asked one early demonstrator, eyeing the second group's posters suspiciously.

A bearded, bespectacled rabbi from the second group appeared confused, then turned toward the gate and yelled: "We're here to say, 'No peace for terrorists!' "

Having established their mutual anger, the two groups mingled and shared signs.

Not so welcome, however, was the third group, Code Pink, which arrived minutes later.

The D.C. activists came bearing pink poster boards and equally loud T-shirts and feather boas. And the crowning piece of their prop collection: a bigger-than-life papier-mâché replica of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's head.

News cameras quickly swung away from the pro-Israelis toward the woman in prison stripes wearing the gigantic Condi-head.

Code Pink had come, the Condi-headed woman announced, to demonstrate for peace and a two-state solution.

The other groups quickly swarmed around the Condi-head, enraged both at her message and her sudden popularity. They worked their signs into camera shots and tried to drown her out with slogans.

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