There has been much lamenting the death of the anti-war movement since the election of Barack Obama. Gone are the rallies calling for the abolition of war – for morality and justice owed to the victims of America’s lethal colonial endeavors. Liberals who rightfully screamed holy murder during the Bush administration are now content to remain silent while Obama orders deadly military attacks against Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. But when Obama signaled earlier this week that he would begin bombing the strife-ridden nation of Syria, it would appear he just went too far. From the looks of it in Portland, Oregon and abroad, the anti-war movement is back with a vengeance.
Last night, dozens of peace activists with the PDX Overhead Light Brigade (OLB/PDX) gathered atop the Burnside bridge, blue-glowing signs in hand, to deliver a message of opposition to Obama’s planned attack upon yet another country that poses no threat to the United States. From OLB/PDX’s event page: “Much like in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, the drumbeat of war is getting increasingly louder with claims of WMDs and chemical weapons.”
For several hours, activists displayed the message: NO WAR w/SYRIA as thousands of cars and trucks sped by below. A constant cacophony of approving honks from passing vehicles echoed up from the I-5 freeway.
Today, following a rapid coordination by organizer Emberlynn Grace Blaylock and others, a rally of hundreds of Portlanders gathered downtown to demand an end to the war mongering threats of the Obama administration. From their press release: “The White House has made it clear that it intends to engage in military action in Syria before UN inspectors have finished investigating possible chemical attacks, and without the support of the international community or American public approval. In a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, 60 percent of Americans said they oppose war with Syria. As concerned and responsible citizens, we condemn unilateral U.S. military attacks on Middle Eastern and North African nations. We condemn the military-industrial complex that salivates over profits from the exportation of war. We condemn President Assad for the brutal atrocities committed against the Syrian people. We condemn the Syrian rebels for the atrocities they have committed against the Syrian people. We demand that the U.S. government immediately end all plans for war and violent intervention in Syria, and join the international community to accomplish the following: (1) Call for and implement an immediate ceasefire in Syria; (2) Pull remaining pillars of support for not only the Assad regime but the rebel factions, as well, including an immediate halt of arms sales and distribution to the region; (3) Empower Syrian civil society to participate in negotiations and contribute to the resolution of this conflict by peaceful means.”
When approached by Rebel Metropolis for comment, Blaylock explicated, “This rally was important because it calls for full transparency on the part of our government officials. It demands the dissolution of the pillars of support beneath the violent factions in Syria, that we shift our support to peace seekers pushed to the margins by violence. This is only the beginning of a larger movement to bring about the end of our wars. Something must be done now that the people have spoken. Enough is enough!”
The crowd’s initial gathering point at Pioneer Square soon filled to capacity, and the decision was made to move to nearby Directors Park. Here, speakers shared the bullhorn to condemn the president’s plan to drop deadly bombs onto a nation of people already suffering under the Assad regime. Increasing the level of violence with methods that will certainly kill more innocent civilians is an act of madness that cannot be tolerated. It was with this sense of outrage that the hundreds in attendance decided it was time to march.
Despite having no permit to legally march, the throngs of anti-war protesters decided to take the streets anyway, chanting, banging drums, and playing brass instruments. There was initial reluctance to move the crowd from the narrow sidewalk to the street, but as the march moved onto Broadway, there was little show of force from police and the crowd moved to take all traffic lanes. Police cars from here on out assisted in corking intersections. No arrests were made.
Obama has claimed he will not launch missiles into Syria without congressional authority. It is imperative that no such authority is granted to him. We have seen the horrifying effects of this kind of militarism, and we have seen the blowback that imperialistic arrogance creates. We cannot afford to continue as the global bully we are known for. Increasing the violence in Syria will not solve the problems in Syria.
If the president and congress go forward with their war plans, you can be sure that people of moral character will return to downtown to speak truth to power. As Percy Shelley so perfectly articulated, “Man has no right to kill his brother. To do so in uniform merely brings the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
See you in the streets.
All images copyright Hart Noecker and Rebel Metropolis.