Durham protesters say ‘no’ to bombing Syria

Sep. 09, 2013 @ 09:17 PM

Nearly 75 demonstrators gathered downtown Monday evening to protest possible U.S. airstrikes against Syria as punishment for killing hundreds of its citizens with chemical weapons.

The protesters – many Duke and UNC graduate students – filled CCB Plaza with signs calling the United States an imperialist nation without moral authority to intervene in the war-torn Middle East nation.

“We imprison more of our population than any country in the world,” UNC graduate student Adra Raine said. “A country that incarcerates its own people at that rate and doesn’t take care of its poor, that doesn’t provide education or health care for its people – to say that it has responsibility to intervene in other countries for humanitarian causes is hypocrisy. It carries no weight.”

Raine said the justification for U.S military intervention in Syria is “largely because of oil and controlling the politics of that region of the world.”

Karim Wissa, a 28-year-old Duke University doctoral student in literature, said he and other protesters are using “the Syrian moment to express frustration with U.S. foreign policy.”

“A lot of people are frustrated with U.S. foreign and domestic policy, including its imperialist ventures and the war against the urban poor,” he said. “And so a bunch of us are coming together to try to build a cohesive unit to express our frustrations and form some kind of solidarity with the Durham community.”

Durham minister and writer Carl Kenney said he is “troubled by the continuation of death around the globe.”

“It saddens me that we’re entering a country where people are being killed by their own leadership, and we’ll probably do the same,” Kenney said. “We should keep in mind that these are human beings in Syria – children, women and men with families.”

Mitali Routh, a 34-year-old Duke graduate student in art history, said the U.S. shouldn’t bomb Syria based on mixed evidence.

“There are many reports about whether the chemical attacks were real and who’s behind them,” Routh said. “The most important thing for me is that we not enter another Mideast war – bottom line. We’ve been through it, and there’s no good reason for us to go back and do that again.”

Durham resident Heather Griswold said she protested the war in Iraq, and never thought she’d have to protest another one.

“I feel like more people are going to die, and it’s not going to help anything,” she said. “We’ve done this before. It doesn’t do anything but hurt more people.”

Griswold said diplomacy hasn’t been given a fair try.

“We go to violence first these days,” she said. “There’s no quick, easy solution. But using more violence is not going to stop violence.”

Not everyone at the plaza was sure that bombing Syria would be misguided.

Matt Williamson brought his 8-year-old son to the plaza during the protest, which he didn’t know about beforehand.

“I’m troubled by the possibility that the United States may [bomb Syria],” he said, “but I’m not necessarily against it. I think a lot of the reaction you’re seeing is war weariness. I think we somewhat foolishly got ourselves involved in a couple of wars in the Middle East.”

Williamson, a downtown business owner, said he wouldn’t oppose U.S. military intervention in Syria if President Obama got support from Congress and the international community.

One middle-aged woman who described herself as a poet said her religious faith led her to speak to the crowd.

“Let’s all just be friends,” she said, fighting back tears. “We need peace among all nations.”