More than 300 anti-war, Syrian protesters march in Chicago
Chicago, IL – Over 300 people rallied and marched here, Aug. 29, to say, “Hands off Syria!” in response to the U.S. threat of a military attack. Half of the people present were Syrians of all backgrounds – Christians and Muslims, Assyrians and Arabs.
The Syrians came with the Syrian American Forum (SAF), a group that has worked over the past several years to try to prevent U.S. intervention in their country. The anti-war groups included the Anti-War Committee – Chicago (AWC), ANSWER Coalition and the March 19th Committee. There was also a contingent from the Iraq Veterans Against the War.
According to one of the emcees, Andy Thayer of Gay Liberation Network, “This protest was organized in a little more than 48 hours after President Obama announced that cruise missile strikes could begin as soon as Thursday.” Hatem Abudayyeh of U.S. Palestinian Community Network-Chicago, explained, “We will protest today and we will hold emergency response actions if and when the U.S. missiles strike Syria.”
Kait McIntyre of AWC led the crowd in chants of “Money for jobs, not for war!” Many speakers denounced the pretext for war that President Obama is using – the claim that the Syrian government had used chemical gas on its civilian population. McIntyre said, “Why would the Syrian government choose now to use gas, when they just welcomed the UN into the country to investigate suspected uses of gas by the rebels?”
Syrian speakers included Dr. Matar Matar and Mark Ahmad of SAF. Dr. Matar passionately called for anti-war protesters to defend Syria, to the cheers from the crowd. A young Syrian American student took the stage and pled with the crowd to continue efforts to stop the war on her homeland.
The high point of the protest was a march up State Street, where hundreds of Chicagoans stopped to look, many taking photos and giving thumbs up. A recent Reuters poll shows that most people in this country don’t support going to war with Syria, and this was evident to the marchers.
The march was led by Syrians holding their national flag with the two stars emblazoned on it. The sound was bouncing off the buildings and the march picked up people as it went. Abudayyeh and McIntyre led the marchers in chants of “Hands off Syria, no new wars!” At the end the crowd broke into, “Long live Syria!” in front of the ABC News building.
A mass meeting was called by the AWC for Sunday, Aug. 31 at 4:00 p.m. to get better organized for the emergency response plan and to fight to try to stop the attack on Syria from happening.