Coast-to-coast protests hit U.S. plans to attack Syria

On Aug. 28, with Washington, London and Paris apparently on the verge of opening up another very unpopular and dangerous war by firing missiles at Syria, anti-war activists in the U.S. and around the world went to the streets before the rockets were launched.

The demonstrations were just the tiny tip of an enormous iceberg of popular opposition in each of the imperialist countries. By Sept. 1, British Prime Minister David Cameron had lost a vote in Parliament backing the war. President Barack Obama, with nearly no international backing, had announced he would ask the U.S. Congress for the support he lacked.

By a count of the listings on the United National Antiwar Coalition’s website, by Sept. 1 there were at least 70 demonstrations, vigils or meetings in at least 50 U.S. cities. (unacpeace.org)

Reports from around the country — from Newark, N.J., to Dearborn, Mich., and Oakland, Calif. — showed that, while the protests were not as large as those leading up to the 2003 war on Iraq, they easily won the solidarity of those passing by.

In New York City on Aug. 29, hundreds of demonstrators, including a strong group of Syria-origin people from Allentown, Pa., marched for two hours to the beat of drums in and around the construction-disrupted streets of Times Square. They often blocked traffic as they chanted, “U.S., NATO, hands off Syria!” The International Action Center and the Syrian American Forum initiated the action. Other groups also built and joined it.

Weaving through the congested sidewalks, the protesters came in close contact with the diverse Times Square crowd, arousing many friendly reactions and few hostile ones.

On Aug. 29 at the Westwood Federal Building in Los Angeles, hundreds called out by Arab Americans for Syria and the Syrian American Forum, along with the International Action Center, BAYAN-USA, the Union of Progressive Iranians, SOA Watch-LA, the Puerto Rican Alliance and UNAC-LA, demanded no bombing or rocket attacks on Syria.

Nearly 100 demonstrators in Seattle made their opposition to a bombing escalation against Syria very visible as the youthful marchers, including many from the Syrian community, marched across downtown from the Federal Building to the Westlake Center and back again on Aug 31.

In San Diego, members of Workers World Party distributed the party’s newspaper to Saturday park goers at famous Balboa Park as well as participants in a spirited rally demanding no U.S. attack on Syria. A banner reminded everyone of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assessment of U.S. militarism 46 years ago: “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today [is] my own government.”

In Washington, D.C., hundreds of demonstrators marched in a demonstration the IAC called Aug. 31 before and during Obama’s speech. Their chants reached into the Rose Garden. The Answer Coalition, Code Pink and the Syrian American Forum were also present.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, there were demonstrations in San Francisco on Aug. 29 around Union Square and on Aug. 31 at the United Nations Plaza. There was also a rally in Oakland on Aug. 31 in Oscar Grant Plaza.

Demonstrators gathered outside the University of Florida in Gainesville on Aug. 28. Anti-war protests also took place in Minneapolis that same day and in Chicago on Aug. 31. Reports can be found at fightbacknews.org.

Hundreds demanded “Don’t bomb Syria” on Boston Common on Aug 31. Syrian nationals proudly displayed their country’s flag and passionately denounced U.S. plans to launch missile attacks against their people. Protestors marched up Boston’s ultrarich, Beacon Hill neighborhood and pounded on the front doors and windows of Secretary of State John Kerry’s mansion.

The People’s Organization for Progress held a lively street meeting in Newark, N.J., on Aug. 31, protesting the attack on Syria to the unanimous cheers of passers-by. The same day in the midst of a busy noontime crowd on Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee, over 70 protesters came out to demand “Hands off Syria!”

Terri Kay, Sara Flounders, Bob McCubbin, John Parker, Jim McMahon and Gerry Scoppettuolo contributed to this report.