Protesters ready for Ahmadinejad's U.S. visit
Whenever Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes to Manhattan, protesters pay attention. They know where he's staying. They stand outside the building when he makes a speech, holding signs comparing him to Adolf Hitler, telling him to go to hell.
"We want him to see he's not welcome here," said Nathan Carleton, spokesman for United Against Nuclear Iran, which is gearing up for Ahmadinejad's arrival this weekend for the United Nations General Assembly.
Ahmadinejad, who is scheduled to make a speech at the UN on Wednesday, is expected to stay for the second straight year at the posh Warwick New York Hotel. A hotel spokesman did not confirm that.
As they did last year, United Against Nuclear Iran protesters will be outside and inside, even reserving a Warwick room, hoping to take their outrage as close to Ahmadinejad as possible.
"We had people walking around the hotel wearing shirts with his face crossed out on them," Carleton said. The group is working to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
The anger extends to the hotel itself. United Against Nuclear Iran and several prominent Jewish groups had urged the Warwick not to provide luxury accommodations for a man who denies the Holocaust and says the United States orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He has also been criticized for Iran's repressive treatment of its people and its support of groups like Hamas.
An Israeli legal group representing a New Yorker wounded in a suicide bombing who later won a $12 million judgment against Iran is going further -- filing legal papers asking that the Warwick turn over any money paid by Iran for the delegation's hotel rooms.
In a motion filed last week in federal court in Manhattan, Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center demanded that the Warwick either refuse to let Ahmadinejad stay, or hand over Ahmadinejad's hotel fees to its client, Stuart Hersh.
Hersh, now living in Israel, survived a 1997 suicide bombing and sued Iran for damages, accusing the country of supporting Islamic Hamas, which staged the attack. He lost part of his hearing and slurs his speech since the blast.
A representative of the Warwick did not comment on the protests or the legal action.
It was unclear what events, if any, outside of his UN appearance are on Ahmadinejad's schedule, but in previous years, they haven't been exempt from protest either, as in 2007, when he spoke at Columbia University.