NYC Protest Gets Heated When Yemen Leader Is Seen



Salon Staff
February 6, 2012 4:09AM (UTC)

NEW YORK (AP) — A protest against embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh outside a luxury hotel in New York got heated Sunday when demonstrators saw him leave the building, with one charging toward him and another throwing a shoe.

"Everybody is living in fear of this guy at home, but here, he's getting good treatment!" said Yemeni immigrant Nasser Almroot, a Brooklyn grocer.

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The dozen angry protesters were kept behind police barricades across the street from the Ritz-Carlton hotel, which was teeming with security guards, both inside and on the sidewalk where Saleh passed.

The 69-year-old leader is visiting the United States for medical treatment.

He exited the hotel on Central Park South on Sunday afternoon and waved and smiled sardonically toward the yelling protesters — even blowing them a kiss. Suddenly, one of them tried to charge across the street but was restrained by police, who wrestled him to the ground.

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"He can't help it, the killer is here," Almroot said.

As the man bolted out, a shoe flew in Saleh's direction. Showing the sole of a shoe is an insult in Arab culture, because it is on the lowest part of the body, the foot. To hit someone with a shoe is seen as even worse.

Saleh got into his car and his motorcade left for an unknown destination.

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Since he arrived in New York about a week ago, the Yemeni president has kept a low profile.

His presence, however, has been controversial.

On Sunday, the protesters hoisted placards bearing photos of Yemenis badly bloodied and brutally killed during his government's yearlong crackdown on anti-Saleh demonstrations.

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He signed a deal in November to transfer power to his vice president in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

An election is scheduled on Feb. 21 to select his successor in a nation mired in poverty and divided among powerful tribes and political factions.

While Saleh has been an anti-terrorism ally of Washington, the United States has not officially welcomed a leader accused of killing hundreds of people during an uprising against his 33-year rule.

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Saleh traveled to the United States with permission for a private visit.

In June, he was badly injured in an attack on his presidential palace — an assassination attempt after which he spent months in Saudi Arabia being treated for massive burns from the explosion that ripped through his palace mosque as he prayed.

A world-renowned burn center is in Manhattan, at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Hospital officials have not confirmed whether Saleh was a patient there.


Salon Staff

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