600 in Chicago demand Congress vote against Syria war
Chicago, IL – Chanting, “Hands off Syria! No new wars!” a rally of 600 people gathered in Federal Plaza on Sept. 7 to demand that Congress vote no on U.S. military intervention. The Anti-War Committee-Chicago called the event, joined by the ANSWER Coalition of Chicago and the Syrian American Forum. The crowd also heard passionate speakers from U.S. Palestinian Community Network, Iraq Veterans Against the War, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2858 and the American Friends Service Committee.
Congress has not voted on military intervention, but a resolution supporting war passed in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. While the Obama administration drums up military momentum, a wave of anti-war rallies is sweeping the country and the world, with mass protests in New York, Washington D.C., London and Tunis.
Since April, the Anti-War Committee-Chicago has been mobilizing against American intervention, organizing downtown demonstrations with the patriotic activists of the Syrian American Forum (SAF). Speaking as a member of SAF, Kousay Ahmad emphasized, “the solution to this conflict must be Syrian – by Syrians for Syria.”
As Federal Plaza filled with chanting people, unions took up the cry of “Money for jobs – not for war!” Elijah Edwards from AFSCME Local 2858 denounced the cutbacks in community healthcare, saying, “Instead of using taxes to support the services of the people, the government is using them to support war.”
Zakiah Muhammad, a long-time community organizer against police brutality, decried the hypocrisy of the Obama administration. “We haven’t forgotten when our government dropped Agent Orange on the Vietnamese people,” she said, calling this action “chemical warfare.”
Alejandro Villatoro brought a moment of moving reflection to the crowd as he remembered how, as a young soldier, he supported the war in Iraq. He realized he had been lied to about the pretext for invasion when, “we didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”
Syrian Americans came out in full force to oppose the war. Family members young and old joined in, waving flags and carrying banners, as the Syrian contingent led the protesters on a march through Chicago’s busy shopping district. The lively marchers took the street for a period, until they were blocked by the police and forced to continue on the sidewalks. The rally regrouped outside the Chicago Tribune building as speakers condemned the newspaper’s pro-intervention editorials.
Chicago’s anti-war movement sent a clear message to Congress, Sept. 7: The American people are overwhelmingly against an attack on Syria and will keep up the pressure for Congress to vote no.