About 150 protesters spoke out against possible US military action in Syria at a candlelight vigil around Park Street MBTA station Monday night, the latest in a number of demonstrations on both sides of the issue sparked by the Mideast country’s alleged use of chemical weapons on its own people.
Protesters delivered speeches urging members of Congress to vote against US military intervention, which President Obama is considering.
“The reason I came is that I expect much more of President Obama,” said Cathy Hoffman, who said she was a longtime peace activist and had lived in Cambridge for decades. “I have been at many demonstrations throughout the decades as president after president has chosen war over and over again to inflict punishment on other countries.”
“War catalyzes hatred, war takes away from resources at home, and it destroys the possibility of solidarity for civilian populations,” she said.
“We have men here counterdemonstrating,” she said, pointing to a cluster of four men who were shouting that President Bashar Assad of Syria is “a criminal.”
The men were from a group they called New Day Syria, which had about 20 members standing on the periphery of the vigil, shouting that Syrians want US military action to stop the violence from their government.
“Assad is a criminal, but the appropriate way to handle criminals is to send them to justice, not to fire missiles,” said Hoffman.
She spoke about her views that war fuels hatred between societies before introducing Thavory Huot, who was selected in 2005 as a Women PeaceMaker by San Diego University’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice.
From Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Huot spoke to the crowd about her and her family’s experiences with US intervention in Cambodia in the 1970s while the Khmer Rouge was the ruling power.
“The US government started bombing us, and we were frightened by high technologic war. It was very scary,” she said.
She said Cambodians were less concerned about the Vietnam War until Cambodia began to feel its effects.
One of the event’s organizers, Cole Harris of Roslindale, said, “We wanted to lift up our voices. The overwhelming majority is saying no to military action. It is right to be concerned about chemical weapons. We don’t condone chemical weapons.”
Nersis Jamsakian, a 22-year-old Suffolk University student who grew up in Aleppo, Syria, and came to the US in 2008, said he joined the demonstration after seeing it on his way home.
“Me and my family, we are with the president [Assad],” he said. “My dad’s side is still in Aleppo, and things are not good. . . . I don’t think the government released chemical weapons. I think it was the rebels.”