More than 100 protesters in Tampa say no to a strike on Syria again

Local groups reconvened Saturday evening at the intersection of Gandy Boulevard and Dale Mabry Highway to continue last week's protest of potential military action by the United States in Syria.

This week groups included the Syrian American Forum, St. Pete for Peace, the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, The Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, Nature Coast Coalition for Peace & Justice, the Peace & Freedom Party of Florida, The Refuge, and Catholic Worker Pinellas. There were estimated to be more than 100 participants, comparable with the previous protest.

“It's great, the momentum's building,” said Bruce Wright of the Green Shadow Cabinet and the Poor People's Human Rights Campaign. “Every week we have at least the same or more and the reality is that the popular opinion is that we shouldn't do this. This is the same kind of prelude that we used to get into Iraq and everybody knows that. Everybody knows to the point where internationally it doesn't have the support. So, I'm pretty happy about where things are going. I think actually for the first time we may have a real shot at preventing a war.”

The Syrian American Forum, who didn't attend in last week's event but have organized other protests on the issue, brought the most vocal contingent. With participants ranging from young children to the elderly, they lead the chants of “Hands off Syria” and waved both Syrian and American flags.

“We saw that there were American groups organizing protests against the war in Syria, so we decided to reach out to them and organize for this week's protest,” said Amer Baghajati of the Syrian American Forum. “It's gone pretty good. We have a lot of turnout from the Syrian-American community this week and there is a greater number than what we had last week (at the Syrian American Forum organized protest).”

The continued growth of the protests across the nation, along with the President's decision to put the issue before Congress, created a wave of optimism amongst the organizers.

“Obviously this is building and with very good reason,” said Michael Fox of the Progressive Democrats of America. “This is a wonderful mirror of what we're hearing from our colleagues across the country as well as our congressional colleagues, Alan Grayson has been on the news all over the place suggesting that the congresspeople are realizing that this wave of sentiment is striking, a literally hundreds to one kind of wave and while I'm ashamed of our country for even considering bombing Syria, I'm really proud of folks. They're getting out and taking care of their civic duty out here. I'm quite excited actually.”

Chris Ernesto of St.Pete for Peace echoed the sentiment.

“First time the people have the momentum and the international community, from the British parliament to the Swedish prime minister have said no to us. The legs of the empire are crumbling. The final straw is going to be the people.If the people demand that we don't go to war with Syria, it will happen.The Democratic party will be put in the position where they have no choice. It's looking wonderful right now.”

With the decision now before Congress, ensuring the activist plan to ensure that local politicians hear their calls literally. Throughout the evening Fox organized calls to Senator Bill Nelson's office, allowing fellow protestors to let the proponent of military action know how they feel. In the coming days Fox feels that constant public pressure on Congress is the only way to avoid conflict.

“We all know that there is going to be a vote some time next week, so while I am all for street heat like we're experiencing right now, it's only a portion of the effort. I would ask anyone to simply call their congressperson. While we can certainly educate all of our fellow citizens, it's only a congressperson who can stroke the pen to make sure that we don't do this.”

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.