In light of U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent decision to allocate more federal resources toward fighting the war in Iraq, Massachusetts residents protested ongoing economic, political and social concerns of foreign warfare at a rally in downtown Boston Saturday.
United for Justice with Peace, a coalition of community peace groups in the Greater Boston area, held its No New U.S. War in Iraq & Syria Rally between Park Street Station and Downtown Crossing Station. Approximately 20 people attended to protest and listen to speakers.
“Most people holding this demo are people who believe in what they are doing,” said visiting medical student Mohamed Elfil, 24, of Alexandria, Egypt. “They are caring about people they have never seen or dealt with. They care about human souls.”
The goals of the march were to call for an end to the bombing and destruction of Syria and Iraq, advocate for the withdrawal of American troops, garner support for humanitarian efforts and “support self-determination and the demilitarization of the area,” Massachusetts Peace Action Executive Director Cole Harrison said in a Friday press release.
The rally began at Park Street Station with an assembly of participants carrying signs, a banner and a mock drone. Protesters spoke for about half an hour about their reasons for organizing a peaceful protest and the need for the United States to discontinue warfare in Iraq and Syria.
Susan McLucas, 65, of Somerville, spoke about the suffering of U.S. troops and others affected by the conflict in Iraq.
“Think of the hundreds and thousands of people all over the world who have been already killed in these wars and the many more injured and traumatized,” she said to the crowd. “Think of the thousands of our own soldiers who have been killed and the countless numbers living with PTSD, traumatized by their own experience of war.”
McLucas called for a change in the current and past presidential administrations’ approach to combating terrorism.
“We need to turn this country around, away from the aggressive policies we‘ve been doing since World War II and especially 9/11,” she said.
The crowd applauded and chanted, “Don’t bomb Syria! Don’t bomb Iraq! Bring our money and soldiers back!”
After the Park Street Station meet-up, the rally walked to Downtown Crossing Station with the mock drone on a rolling cart and a stereo playing drone noises in the background. Participants sporadically fell to the ground to remind passersby of the ailments of war victims.
People in the area took notice of protesters. Some took out their phones to take pictures, and others stopped to ask about the rally.
Demonstrator John Harris, 62, of Chelsea, said the United States should provide aid to the Middle East in a neutral fashion and let the countries create their own solutions independently.
“I’m here to support the self-determination of people of the Middle East,” Harris said. “The solution to the problems of the Middle East must come from the people there themselves. The Pentagon has no solution that furthers the interest of the people of the Middle East. The U.S. should be sending material aid to victims of the conflict through neutral institutions.”
Andrew Mohebbi, 21, of Fenway, who also participated in the rally, said the United States should engage in neutral intervention and reform its economy.
“The basic problem underpinning war is poverty,” Mohebbi said. “Money is involved in politics, and you can’t have power [if you have no money]. You get problems that include the funding of weapons and mercenary armies. They [countries in the Middle East] have to govern justly. This is why we have issues.”
Another protester, Tom Maclachlan, 71, of Amesbury, said violence is not the solution to the conflict between the United States and countries in the Middle East.
“Forever, people have believed in the myth of redemptive violence,” he said. “My sign says, ‘Bombing Doesn’t Stop People.’ To be violent against someone, it is not a cure for violence.”