Local Syrian activists are planning a protest against the 17th annual Arab American Day Festival in Garden Grove because they claim its founder's Arabic-language newspaper supports Syrian ruler Bashar Al-Assad's regime, which has cracked down on pro-democracy protesters in a brutal conflict that has killed 30,000 people since the uprising began in March 2011.
The So Cal Syrian Coordination Committee, an informal group of pro-opposition activists, writes that "Arab American Day Festival is made and sponsored by pro-Assad regime newspaper called Al-Alam Al-Arabi. They promote Assad's regime propaganda by justifying killing innocent people who called for freedom and democracy in Syria," on its Facebook event page for the protest. A lady who answered the phone at the festival's office said she wasn't aware of the protest and she didn't have time to respond to it.
The Arab American Festival has been running for 16 years in downtown Garden Grove, home to a large and growing Arab population, and neighbors with Anaheim's Little Arabia, Orange County's Middle Eastern enclave. Festival founder Ahmad Alam describes the festival to the Garden Grove Journal as "not just a ceremony where we celebrate our culture and social heritage as a community. It is an appreciation and gratitude gesture to this country, our adopted homeland and its wide-open doors of tolerance and understanding among all Americans."
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The festival, which features food, music, dancing, and live entertainment, draws around 20,000 people every year. This is the second consecutive year where activists plan to protest the festival organizers; their first protest last year caused the CIA, which has spent $10,000 to help sponsor the fair in the past few years, to withdraw its booth from the festival.
In his website, Happy Arab News Service, community activist Rashad Al-Dabbagh writes a post titled 6 Reasons To Boycott OC's Arab Festival. The festival runs from Friday, September 28 to Sunday, September 30, and the protest is planned for Saturday evening.