Tea Partiers and peaceniks protest U.S. strike against Syria
Saturday (Aug. 31), several dozen protesters from opposite sides of the political spectrum converged on Chico City Plaza beneath a searing noon sun to voice their united opposition to a possible military attack by the United States on Syria.
While protests are not uncommon in the plaza—even expected on the same day that President Barack Obama announced he would ask Congress to back his decision to strike Syria—this rally differed from most gatherings because of who organized it. The action was a joint effort between the Chico Peace and Justice Center and the Chico State University chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a libertarian student organization associated with the Tea Party movement.
Members of YAL—including President Thomas Childers, who was first to speak and stayed on the plaza’s stage to introduce other speakers—wore crimson T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, “Long live liberty.”
“We will not stand for an unconstitutional, undeclared and unjust war in our name,” Childers said to the assemblage. “We will not stand by as our civil liberties are eroded by endless conflict.
“We must stand together, left and right, to bring a clear message that America will not stand for war and empire.”
YAL is a nonprofit political organization formed in 2008 at the end of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s unsuccessful presidential campaign. According to the organization’s website at www.yaliberty.org, the group has an estimated 125,000 members at more than 420 chapters, mostly based at colleges and universities (with some junior and senior high-school groups), and claims to be “the largest, most active, and fastest-growing pro-liberty organization on America’s college campuses.”
Childers further stated that U.S. involvement in Syria is a “no-win situation that won’t help ourselves, our allies or the Syrian people.” He said there is “no clear good guy to back,” as the point of the strike is to punish President Bashar al-Assad for allegedly using chemical warfare, while the rebel group Al-Nusra Front is backed by terrorist group—and U.S. enemy—al-Qaida.
His overall message was critical of U.S. military action everywhere.
“People in Pakistan right now are cowering in their homes because we’re striking them with drones.” Childers said. “Is that the kind of message of freedom, of liberty, that America is supposed to send? Or should we do as our founding fathers said and lead by example, having no entangling alliances and no undeclared wars?”
The issue of whether or not to attack Syria is a sticky one, with no easy division along party lines. Supporters of a strike cite Assad’s alleged use of chemical warfare and the fact that more than 100,000 people have died in that country’s 2 1/2-year-long civil war as reason for U.S. intervention, while others fear such action could lead to confrontations with Russia, which has thus far backed the Syrian leader.
At the plaza, speaker Sue Hilderbrand, a Butte College political-science instructor and host of community radio station KZFR’s “The Point Is,” addressed arguments she said she’s heard from those who were on the fence regarding U.S. military action in Syria.
“It hurts me to hear people get into the minutiae of all of these arguments,” Hilderbrand said. “My reaction is, I don’t really care who did it, who’s dying—I don’t really care about any of that.
“I think we need to stop our condoning of violence in our society and abroad. We are a very vicious society and we continue to judge others for their viciousness. We’re the biggest gorilla in the room, and it’s up to this gorilla to say stop.”
Hilderbrand also addressed the fact that the rally was a collaboration: “This is a wonderful organizing effort because the far left and the far right have come together to say, ‘No.’
“We all have our issues with President Obama right now, but I do believe in some very strange way he gave us this opportunity to start a dialogue to reclaim our democracy, to slow this violent culture we continue to perpetuate here and abroad.”
Hilderbrand urged attendees to pressure their political representatives to vote against striking Syria before Congress reconvenes on Sept. 9.