Protesters rally at Capi­tol to de­nounce Syria airstrikes,

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Johnathan Sil­ver jsil­ver@states­man.com Con­tact Johnathan Sil­ver at 512-445-3631.

Driv­ers, with their car horns and thumbs-ups, en­cour­aged about 50 protesters at the south en­trance of the Capi­tol grounds Sun­day af­ter­noon con­demn­ing U.S.-led airstrikes on Syria.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump an­nounced the airstrikes late Fri­day amid sus­pi­cion that Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad had used chem­i­cal weapons against his own peo­ple in a rebel-held area near the nation’s cap­i­tal.

The attack re­port­edly killed at least 40 peo­ple. Syria has been in a civil war for seven years.

“No jus­tice, no peace; U.S. out of Mid­dle East,” and “One, two, three, four, we don’t want your racist war; five, six, seven, eight, Syria’s a sovereign state,” were some of the chants protesters hurled to­ward traf­fic and pedes­tri­ans where Congress Av­enue meets 11th Street down­town.

The United States, Bri­tain and France uni­lat­er­ally and il­le­gally struck sites in Syria, and did so with­out proof As­sad was re­spon­si­ble for the chem­i­cal weapons attack, said Adrian Bou­tureira, one of the found­ing mem­bers of the Austin chap­ter of No War With Syria and a leader in the Travis County Green Party.

“As of today, there is no em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence to prove that As­sad launched the attack,” he told the Amer­i­can-States­man.

The three na­tions, though, have said they have ev­i­dence that As­sad was be­hind the attack, which left nu­mer­ous civil­ians dead or in­jured. Trump has called As­sad an “an­i­mal” and a “mon­ster” and has crit­i­cized Rus­sia and Iran for sup­port­ing the Syr­ian leader.

Demo­cratic So­cial­ists of Amer­ica mem­ber David Hamil­ton said he doesn’t trust the word of Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, cit­ing the Iran-Con­tra af­fair, the lack of ev­i­dence of Iraq hav­ing weapons of mass de­struc­tion af­ter the U.S. in­vaded for that rea­son and the al­le­ga­tion that for­mer Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Di­rec­tor James Clap­per lied un­der oath be­fore Congress when asked if the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency col­lects data on Amer­i­cans in the United States.

“It’s pretty ubiq­ui­tous in the United States gov­ern­ment: the propen­sity to lie to the Amer­i­can pub­lic to cover their acts of ag­gres­sion,” he said.

David Durbin, a mem­ber of Austin Anti War and No War With Syria Austin, said he’s skep­ti­cal about the nar­ra­tive used to war­rant airstrikes.

“I think there was a chem­i­cal attack,” he said. “I don’t think we have ev­i­dence about who did it.”

Even if As­sad was re­spon­si­ble, Amer­i­can in­volve­ment in the civil war will make mat­ters worse, he said.

“It’s just go­ing to drag on the killing of civil­ians and the war,” Durbin said.

Pro­tester Am­ina Choudhury said Amer­i­can in­volve­ment is “very messy.” The United States con­ducted airstrikes al­most ex­actly one year ago Fri­day be­cause of a chem­i­cal attack, yet As­sad is still in power, and the rebels are los­ing the war, she said.

Trump wanted to send a mes­sage to As­sad with the airstrikes, but “there is no mes­sage be­ing sent,” Choudhury said.

Mem­bers of Austin Anti War, No War With Syria Austin, Demo­cratic So­cial­ists of Amer­ica, Travis County Green Party, In­ter­na­tional So­cial­ist Or­ga­ni­za­tion, Vet­er­ans for Peace and AN­SWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coali­tion par­tic­i­pated in the protest.

Mem­bers of Open Cathe­dral, a pro­gres­sive church in Le­an­der, also at­tended the rally to sup­ply wa­ter and first aid if needed.

JAY JANNER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Ryan Pol­lock (from left), Rod­ney Florence and James Cole demon­strate against the U.S. airstrikes in Syria at a protest Sun­day at the Capi­tol.

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