Local protesters plead for diplomacy, peace in Syria

People at Esther Short Park rally fear more unrest in Middle East

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

Updated: September 9, 2013, 11:10 PM

 
photoItalia Laruffa of Vancouver holds his sign Monday while listening to speakers at Esther Short Park.

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photoMike Ellison speaks to about 50 people who attended the event. Similar gathering occurred around the country Monday evening, on the eve of President Obama's speech on possible military action.

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photo"Our military tools will not bring protection, justice or reconciliation for the Syrian people. My heart goes out to the people of Syria. … Many people in Vancouver are very much opposed to (U.S. air strikes in Syria)," said Mike Ellison, organizer of an anti-war rally Monday in Vancouver.

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About 50 people gathered Monday evening in Esther Short Park to oppose military air strikes on Syria. Similar gatherings occurred in cities around the country on the eve of President Barack Obama’s speech about potential military action.

“Our military tools will not bring protection, justice or reconciliation for the Syrian people,” said the event’s organizer, Mike Ellison. “My heart goes out to the people of Syria.”

He says the U.S. should seek diplomatic alternatives to resolving the growing conflict in the Middle Eastern country that build international cooperation and trust.

Those who attended the event were concerned that military force could intensify unrest in the region and lead to another war. Two large signs that once expressed opposition to war with Iraq were changed to relay the same message for Syria.

“American credibility has suffered terribly from the last two wars,” said Jane ­Elder Wulff, who spoke at the event.

Ellison’s organization, Vancouver for Peace, collected about 225 signatures at Saturday’s Peace and Justice Fair in the park and forwarded them to the offices of U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican, and U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats. The organization urges them to consider the consequences of authorizing airstrikes.

“It was very easy to get that many signatures,” Ellison said. “Many people in Vancouver are very much opposed to this.”

State Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, spoke briefly at the gathering to express his support of the coalition.

“United States should be the first to help, not the first to strike,” he said. “We should be giving them bread, not bullets.”

After the speeches, people took a moment of silence for those killed in Syria and any more deaths that might result from U.S. bombings.

As she carried a flag representing Veterans for Peace, Karen Jones of Vancouver said, “Years ago, I was so proud of my country for being a shining light and we’ve got to get that light back on.”