Hundreds of demonstrators crowded in front of the White House on Saturday, braving the sweltering midday heat to protest impending military strikes on Syria.
Antiwar protesters, many bearing yellow signs reading “War on Syria: Built on a Lie,” marched in front of the wrought-iron fence bordering the White House’s northern lawn, while inside President Obama prepared to make a statement on military intervention.
“They say more war, we say no more!” activists chanted, along with “Hey! Obama! Hands off Syria!”
A police officer estimated that at least 300 to 350 people had gathered, although the demonstrators were rather diverse and not all were opposed to military action.
Eighty-two-year-old Jennifer Ellingston, who helped found the left-wing D.C. Statehood Green Party in 1996, told TheDCNF that she was there to protest “the imminent intervention in another country by the empire, the policeman of the world.”
“In 2008, listening to Obama’s speeches, I said to a friend ‘You know, that man is sedated.’ It’s like the Manchurian Candidate,” she said.
“It’s not coming out of his head, it’s coming out of his script,” she continued. “Can’t you come up with some new adjectives? His vocabulary amounts to 500 words.”
Ellingston carried a sign quoting Martin Luther King: “The United States is the largest purveyor of violence in the world.” She said she used the identical quotation over forty years previously while protesting the Vietnam War.
About twenty minutes after the rally’s midday start, a contingent of about 75 pro-intervention protesters, most apparently of Syrian origin, came up alongside the anti-intervention demonstrators.
With chants of “Down with Bashar Assad,” “Free Syria” and “Long Live the Revolution,” they sought to drown out the antiwar slogans.
“We are standing with the Syrian people, with the Syrian children who were killed with the chemical weapons,” said Samir Nasher, a Syrian doctor from Aleppo who has lived in the United States for the last 12 years.
“We support the president,” he told TheDCNF. “We think the United States, as the leader of the free world, they should take action to make sure people do not use internationally-outlawed chemical weapons.”
“We are not asking for American people to go die in Syria, the Syrian people don’t want a foreign army to come on their land or bombard their land,” he said. “But they have no choice.”