On the evening of April 12, at 6:00 P.M., scores of conscientious people gathered outside the Wilshire Federal Building in Los Angeles to collectively voice their outrage threats by the Trump administration to bomb Syria. The demonstration was organized by Arab Americans 4 Syria, Al-Enteshar, ANSWER Coalition, Code Pink, Students for Justice in Palestine at USC, Veterans for Peace, KmB – Pro-People Youth, Long Beach Progressive Alliance and Bayan, the Support Committee for Korean Prisoners of Conscience and the Korean Peace Alliance. All groups participating were united in their sense of urgency, given the imminent prospect of escalation of a brutal war and the devastation of yet another country at the hands of the U.S. military.
The need to stop the United States’ imperialist adventure was not lost on the protestors in Los Angeles. Those present waved signs and chanted slogans fully denouncing the hypocrisy and cruelty of U.S. aggression in Syria. Amidst high winds and heavy rush-hour traffic, a chorus of “U.S. out of the Middle East!” and “Hands Off Syria!” could be heard by commuters and pedestrians. Many honked horns and flashed peace signs in approval of the slogans. The chant “Occupation is a crime, from Syria to Palestine!” echoed time and again, invoking the unity of struggle amongst the peoples of the Levant.
Melina Rodriguez from the Party for Socialism and Liberation spoke of the travesty of bombing in the name of humanitarian concern, at the same time that the United States is enforcing a naval blockade that is starving the entire civilian population of Yemen. Huge sums of public money have already been funneled into the Syrian insurgency that has destroyed countless Syrian lives, she contended. All this could have been used for better healthcare, education and jobs in the United States. But the U.S. ruling class prefers endless war in the Middle East.
Andrew Nance, an organizer with ANSWER Coalition, drew a clear connection between what was then a proposed bombing campaign in Syria and the spike in profits for weapons contractors like Raytheon following the earlier US bombing in April 2017. The naked greed and cynicism that characterizes the U.S. role in Syria was plain for all to see.
Long-time anti-war activist and National Lawyers Guild Executive Director Emeritus, Jim Lafferty, emphasized that the only force that has proven historically capable of
stopping the imperialist war machine has been organized anti-war movements willing to take to the streets.
Many Syrian-Americans from the organization Arab Americans 4 Syria turned out in defense of their homeland and their families. Johnny Achi passionately related the horrific suffering Syrians have endured over the past seven years of U.S.-sponsored war. He articulated the distortions of the conflict since the U.S. media first committed to regime-change in 2011. Syria is a last citadel of Arab unity he maintained, which is precisely why it has become the longtime target of U.S. imperialist aggression, Zionist
destabilization and Saudi sectarianism.
Peter Kim, of the Support Committee for Korean Prisoners of Conscience, movingly conveyed solidarity with Syrians on behalf of Koreans, who are seeking peaceful coexistence in the face of US threats. Unity amongst oppressed peoples, from the Korean peninsula to the Levant, is paramount in checking U.S. coercion.
All those present at the protest spoke with defiance in the face of further war on Syria. The ANSWER Coalition, amongst many other organizations,
remained fully mobilized to respond whatever new atrocities and violations of Syrian sovereignty the US is planning to unleash.
Los Angeles emergency response
Within 24 hours of the demonstration on Wilshire Boulevard, the United States, the United Kingdom and France carried out a series of missile attacks against Syria.
Over a hundred people flocked to Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles at 5:00 p.m. on April 14 – hours after the strikes were announced. Many of the same groups, including ANSWER Coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation, as well as Arab Americans 4 Syria jointly organized this emergency mobilization to condemn the new bout of imperialist aggression.
Demonstrators displayed their collective resolve. Chants of “Syria we’ve got your back!” and “Syria is a sovereign state!” pulsed throughout the square. Carolyn Gomez from the ANSWER Coalition spoke with powerful indignation about the squandering of resources on illegal wars. “We are only a few blocks away from skid row,” they reminded those assembled. Instead of putting public funds towards solving the homelessness epidemic in cities like Los Angeles, hundreds of millions of dollars have just been vanished in a matter of minutes following the illegal U.S. missile strikes.
Most of the missiles launched were shot down by Syrian air defense systems, Johnny Achi from Arab Americans 4 Syria, informed the crowd. This in and of itself represents a massive check on the arrogance of US war-makers. For this reason, Syrians in Damascus were pictured celebrating the morning after the strikes, knowing they had successfully faced down unprovoked foreign attack on their nation. “The U.S. is trying to punish Syria for winning the war,” Achi explained. But, as witnessed time and again, Syrians refuse to cower before the United States’ aggression.
The demonstrators occupying Pershing Square were emboldened by the dignity and spirit of resistance displayed by Syrians, taking to the streets to march through traffic on a busy Saturday evening. Many carried signs denouncing U.S. imperialism and waved Syrian flags. The unity of purpose was palpable, and downtown pedestrians could not help but take note.
As the march made its way back to Pershing Square, the momentum did not abate. ANSWER Coalition speakers loudly proclaimed the importance of organized resistance to imperialism from within the imperial core. All morally upright people should stand with Syria now.