Ithaca residents took to the streets Sept. 13 to speak out against a potential United States intervention in Syria.
About 40 protesters came together for the demonstration, which began at 3 p.m. in Dewitt Park, and proceeded down Cayuga Street to the Tompkins County Public Library.
As they marched, the protesters chanted, “We are unstoppable, another world is possible.”
Ithaca resident Shakti Moksha, who helped organize the protest, said she is against U.S. involvement in Syria because it would be a repetition of the Iraq war.
“This war is not a benevolent one, and that’s why we’re seeing the same propaganda that we’ve seen over the last decade,” Moksha said. “It’s the same justification that these people are experiencing terrorism in their own land, and they need us to come and save them.”
Though many of the protesters were members of local groups, the rally was not affiliated with any particular group. Moksha said she’s considering creating an organization to help with rallies to support community movements such as this one in Ithaca.
“I’m going to start something called ‘Rallies of Ithaca,’ which will be a network that will allow people to rally a little bit easier,” Moksha said. “Rallies for any community-sponsored movement, and anything that people get excited about and want to rally about.
After marching to the library, community members spoke to the group about their opinions on the Syria conflict. Any resident who wanted to speak was given five minutes to address the group. In his presentation, Ithaca resident James Ricks said he thinks it’s hypocritical for the U.S. to respond to violence with more violence.
“The hypocrisy of Obama, Kerry and Biden talking about how we can’t stand by and watch these innocent children being killed by these outlawed weapons, when we’re doing it at the same time, is such a troubling disconnect,” Ricks said. “We take our crimes and put antiseptic names on them, and unbelievably, it seems to pacify the people in this country.”
Moksha said she agreed that America’s involvement in Syria is hypocritical. She said the U.S. shouldn’t criticize Syria for using chemical weapons because the U.S. has the same weapons.
“This idea is getting thrown around about chemical weapons, and it’s quite a hypocrisy — that one of the most well-armed nations that has its own chemical weapons is criticizing other nations for trying to defend themselves as well,” Moksha said.
Lies and propaganda were recurring themes in the protest. Clare Grady, Ithaca resident and member of the Catholic Worker community, suggested that there are government lies involved with every act of war. Grady said the American people can prevent future acts of war by uncovering the truth.
“There is a lie that precedes every killing, and there is lie that follows up every killing,” she said. “We have the obligation to seek the truth and proclaim the truth.”
Another theme in many of the presentations at the protest was a disappointment in President Obama. Though Ithaca is a liberal area, many of the protesters spoke out against Obama.
Ricks said he had supported Obama when he was first elected, but has since lost respect for him because of his actions regarding Syria.
“Barack Obama, a man that I was so proud that he was elected the president of this country, has been such a personal disappointment to me,” Ricks said.
Many of the demonstrators praised Congress for not supporting a strike on Syria. Ithaca resident Dan Bergman supports Congress in its negative response to war. Bergman said Congress accurately represents the opinion of the American people on this issue
“Thank goodness the Congress has refused Obama’s declaration to bomb, because the majority of the people don’t want this,” he said. “That’s the beginning of a democratic process.”
In her presentation, Grady asked the group what good a U.S. invasion of Syria would do. She said if an invasion will not help civilians in Syria, then something else will need to be done.
“Yes, something must be done, but will U.S. bombs help the children of Syria?” Grady said. “If we can’t answer that question, then we have to go back to the drawing board.”