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Boston Protesters speak out against U.S. military action in Syria

Shanice Maxwell | 9/18/2013, 11:45 a.m.
Nearly 100 people protested American military intervention in Syria on Boston Common last week at part of the National Day ...
Syrian supporters of American involvement in the Syrian crisis were among the minority at a recent event on the Boston Common protesting American military involvement in the war-torn Middle Eastern country. Bobby Shakes

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Protesters spoke out against U.S. military action in Syria at a candlelight vigil organized on the Boston Common last week. Though some demonstrators supported U.S. intervention most stood against any military strikes.

Brisk fall winds blew through the Boston Common but that didn’t stop nearly 100 people from protesting the American military intervention in Syria.

Those gathered huddled close to each other in a tight circle with hands hovering over their candles to preserve their light next to Park Street station; some holding signs while others shared carefully chosen words.

Coming from class with a bookbag hanging from his shoulder, 22-year-old Nersis Jamsakiam refused to pass up the opportunity to partake in the vigil.

“I’m really sad and heartbroken,” he said. “You see all those pictures and videos but I know this place, I know those are places I used to go. I’m from Aleppo so I know many places that are destroyed completely. It’s unbelievable and really, really sad.”

After getting choked up talking about his remaining family there he continued. “America shouldn’t get involved,” he said. “We’re helping the rebels [if we do] and I think they’ve done enough damage.”

This peaceful candlelight vigil was just one of more than 160 similar vigils that took place across the country last week as part of a National Day of Action hosted by MoveOn.org, CREDO, Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and Win Without War.

The goal was for people to urge their state representatives to take a stand against military intervention in Syria.

Lara Jirmanus, 34, of Boston did not need much prompting.

“I’m actually Lebanese-American and I just returned from Lebanon where I’m seeing that the atmosphere is becoming really tense because people realize that the repercussions of a potential U.S. military attack on Syria could have very serious implications throughout the entire region,” she said. “I’m personally very concerned that this could spiral out of control into a larger regional war or potentially even World War III.”

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About 100 people gathered outside of Park Street station on the Boston Common in a candlelight vigil last week protesting possible U.S. military action against Syria.

Jaime Aponte, 22, of Brockton, was equally adamant. “Honestly the United States needs to mind its own business,” Aponte said. “That’s my personal opinion.”

Vigil participants remained mostly silent as lead organizers shared poignant words. But Syrian supporters of American military action emerged from the dim shadows chanting, “We want the war! Assad is a criminal!” repeatedly.

A group of men waved posters with pictures of slain Syrians. “None of the people here are from there,” one man exclaimed. “We need to be defended by America. You [all] have no idea what’s going on [there],” with undeniable passion in his tone and eyes.

This ignited a dialogue about why America should get involved with Syria and within moments, what had been mostly silent voices were now buzzing throughout the crowd.

Exchanges between members of the crowd continued as some left to join a separate, silent vigil that had been taking place a few feet away. Here, far fewer in number, were another group of people advocating for the United States to get involved with the tragedy taking place in Syria.

Some were Syrians, some Syrian-Americans and others were Americans all united for the same cause and all trying to have their voices heard, but with a different strategy.

All were members of NuDay Syria, an organization focused on providing humanitarian aid to displaced Syrians, though they stood that night as individuals.

Outlined with candles in front of their feet were words etched in chalk that read “Support the Children of Syria.”

They too, held posters with pictures of children, some of whom were family, to advocate their cause. One woman covered in traditional Islamic garb held the American flag.

At the end, Syrians and supporters from both demonstrations were able to talk and shake hands, showing firsthand how unified people can be despite differing opinions and views.