About 50 demonstrators gathered on Boston Common Sunday, saying the size of their group should not belie its sentiment: The US military must strike against Syria’s regime in response to widespread reports of a devastating chemical weapons attack.
Carrying Syrian and American flags, the group hoped to rally support for its cause, which stood in stark opposition to a separate protest held in Boston the day before. There is a burgeoning wave of national activism against a US-led intervention in the conflict, with other groups attempting to persuade President Obama and Congress not to get involved.
Many of those gathered Sunday near the Park Street MBTA station were of Syrian descent. Several said they had immigrated to the United States within the past two years, fleeing the violence that has engulfed their country. With handmade signs and a megaphone, they argued that the proposal to launch strikes against Syria is necessary to prevent the use of more chemical weapons and other alleged human rights violations.
“Since the US is a country of democracy and human rights we should take a stand,” said Lubna Moheddin, 24, who left Syria after completing high school. She said her 19-year-old cousin was kidnapped and killed because he posted antigovernment rhetoric on Facebook.
“Think of the children who are dying,” Moheddin said. “People should not be scared that it will be another war like Iraq. It’s a different story.”
Several people carried signs showing pictures of Syrians, many of them children, who appeared to have been killed in an alleged sarin gas attack.
“You can’t just sit back and let a madman, an evil person, do that to his people,” said Thomas Moore, a Korean War veteran. Moore said he had not known about the rally until he walked past. Having experienced war firsthand, he decided to join because he sympathized with the Syrian people.
“I’m not a warmonger, but you need to protect people,” he said.
The rally grew steadily after starting off as a smattering of people around 3 p.m. Nadia Alawa, the event organizer, said many Syrian Americans were on their way to Washington, D.C., for a large rally scheduled for Monday.
“This doesn’t reflect the sentiment of the people,” Alawa said of the rally’s size. “People are just really tired.”
But she was enthusiastic about the response of passersby strolling the along Common on a sunny afternoon.
“I was afraid maybe there would be a lot of hostility, but people are very curious,” she said, while handing out fliers. “The American people still want to know what is going on.”
On Saturday, at least 100 people had gathered in the same area, but they voiced opposition to US intervention in Syria. Many of them argued that launching missiles would draw the country into another long war.
But those rallying on Sunday sought to counter that perception. “Look, we don’t want another Iraq,” said Magdalena Ayed, 42.
She said those fighting against Syria’s regime need time to organize themselves into a more coherent movement.
“That is what democracy is built on,” Ayed said, “people organizing themselves.”