Syrian Airstrikes Prompt Protesters to Take to the Streets

Peace groups voiced their opposition to President Trump’s action against Syria in front of Trump Tower

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A day after President Trump authorized the launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian military base, peace groups in New York City gathered in front of Trump Tower on Friday evening, April 7, to protest U.S. policy on Syria and a slew of other causes. 

“How do you solve a problem? You don’t just solve a problem by dropping a bomb on it,” said Brooklyn resident and composer Sam Wolf,  carrying an anti-war sign .

The demonstration, which drew over 200 people, started on Fifth Avenue, moved  through Times Square and culminated in a rally in Union Square.  Afterwards, the protesters then marched back uptown to Fifth Avenue, where they ended in a standoff with NYPD officers.  The police arrested nine people on charges of obstructing pedestrian traffic.  Around Fifth Avenue and East 25th Street, several pockets of protesters remained as others continued to march back toward Trump Tower.

Many demonstrators objected to the police’s actions.

“I am disgusted and horrified, but unfortunately not surprised,” said Monica Joy Cruz, a Fordham University student and social activist.  “This is how the police conduct themselves at any peaceful demonstration even when we are peaceful, even when we obey the law and stay on the sidewalk.”

Although the timing of the protest was linked directly to the U.S. airstrikes against Syrian airbases, the protesters raised other issues, which drew a coalition of activists from different causes. The crowd’s chants included: “Hands off Syria,” “Money for Jobs and Education, Not for War and Occupation,” and “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA.”

“Everything is equally important and all struggles are interconnected,” said Gina Lee, a juvenile justice reform activist, who said she felt  compelled to take to the streets for this protest.  She sees that the Syrian Civil War has resulted from problems “that have been exacerbated by U.S. and Western interventions for centuries, so I don’t think it’s anything new.” 

Many protesters compared the campaign in Syria to past U.S. policies of military intervention in the Arab world.    We see what our country did Iraq and Libya and we do not want this happen to Syria,” said Cruz.  “We stand with the Syrian people’s right to decide what happens to Assad’s regime.”

The United States launched the airstrike in response to a chemical attack in Idlib, Syria, that is being investigated by the United Nations Security Council. Many in the crowd pointed out that the president’s order to strike seemed to contradict his policy of not allowing Syrian refugees to enter the country.

“We should not be bombing Syria while refusing to accept Syrian refugees,” said protester Brandon Cuicchi, identifying the Trump administration’s policies as racial discrimination.

David Havrinek of the anti-war ANSWER Coalition believes the Trump Administration does not represent Syria’s interests or the interests of the American people.  “Donald Trump is a representative of the business class, the people from Fifth Avenue, from Wall Street, the very small amount of people who profit off our work,” said Havrinek.

U.S. President Donald Trump has doubled down on the Obama Administration’s airstrikes, launching 70 drones over Yemen—twice the number of those launched in 2016—and an airstrike over Mosul, Iraq in March that killed as many as 300 people, according to some sources.  The United States has also given military and financial support to Saudi Arabia’s ten-month offensive against Yemen, which may have resulted in a death toll of 10,000 as of August 2016, according to the U.N. humanitarian office.

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