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