Protesters of war on Syria at the corner of Nees and Blackstone in North Fresno. Photo by Mike Bridges

Valley, Nation Rally to Quiet the Drumbeat of War

By Mike Bridges

As of this writing, we have not yet fired on Syria. Not directly anyway. But for some time now, we’ve already been at war-by-proxy with Syria by giving direct and indirect support to “rebel” groups such as the Al-Nusra Front, which is their local branch of Al-Qaeda. According to John Kerry, terrorists/mercenaries make up 20%–25% of the rebel forces. So the real issue is not if we attack Syria, but whether we will escalate our involvement, in support of who and for what goals.

The Obama administration and seemingly the world were prepared for the red line to be crossed, motivating the United States to plunge into yet another military action. Chemical weapons were definitely used. By whom is the question. Many talking heads across the map and political spectrum have been banging the drum of war insisting that Assad and the Syrian government were responsible. To date, no solid evidence has been provided concluding who actually used the chemical weapons. Some evidence actually suggests the weapons were used by rebels.

Obama and Kerry have both come out preaching a poetic rhetoric that seems to have little foundation in reality. Like in the lead-up to the Iraq war, statements are being repeated to sway opinion without proof being presented to back up those claims.

So the U.S. government with its ships and Tomahawk missiles being strategically placed for an attack was poised to go to war. Someone somewhere was about to hit the red button to start it all off, but something happened.

People in the Central Valley, the nation and across the world rallied calling for peace. Besides the usual faces you’d expect to see, many who may not oppose war, in general, came out to demand further evidence before being led into another war that was drummed up on false pretenses. It has been an ongoing, and many times spontaneous, gathering of various ages, backgrounds and political ideologies.

Many new connections have been made that would not have been otherwise. Connections between people who have come together to unite for a common cause, despite their differences. For some, this is their first taste of activism, and they seem to be where they are supposed to be, at least for the moment. So far, this mesh of activists has made for a youthful and energetic crowd taking to the streets often and for long durations.

Protests against the threat of war in Syria took place in cities big and small. This antiwar protest took place in Hanford. Photo by Mike Bridges
Protests against the threat of war in Syria took place in cities big and small. This antiwar protest took place in Hanford. Photo by Mike Bridges

These activists that have come together aren’t just standing on a street corner waving a sign and talking into a megaphone; they are organizing to call and visit their representatives to make a direct impact as well.

One of these new activists is Tiffany Corcoran. Granddaughter of the founding member of Grandmothers for Peace, she decided to get involved and joined Peace Fresno a couple of weeks ago. Because she lives about 40 minutes from Fresno, she instinctively took it upon herself to start a Peace Hanford group. In its first week, they had several demonstrations and received great feedback and inquiries on how to join. They’ve also been featured in the local newspaper.

Corcoran stressed that she opposes the war, not the U.S. military. Her father and brother both served in the Army infantry during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“My dad said the best thing we can do to support our troops is to keep them out of a war,” Corcoran said.

“Thursday night’s action was just amazing. I am so grateful to everyone that came out, especially those who drove from Fresno to support us,” says Corcoran. “I’m overjoyed with the positive feedback I have been receiving about our actions here in Hanford. I have always known a little bit about peace activism because of my grandmother. But the Syria crisis is what pushed me to get involved. I do not support the potential bombing of Syria or military intervention. I believe that it is an issue that should be resolved with words and a plan of action involving other countries, not just the United States. We are not the world’s police and should not stick our nose in other people’s civil wars.

“I have gotten a few inquiries about Peace Hanford about how to get involved,” says Corcoran. “So I have made the Facebook page Peace Hanford and am trying to get as many people involved as I can. I plan to continue Peace Hanford regardless of the outcome in Syria. I feel like it is important to have a place for people to be able to go to talk to people who want to make a difference in the community and the world. I hope to start getting events together and help out in our town in many different ways.”

Protestors took their message of peace to Rep. Jim Costa’s office in downtown Fresno. Photo by Dylan Donnelly
Protestors took their message of peace to Rep. Jim Costa’s office in downtown Fresno. Photo by Dylan Donnelly

One of the peace activities organizers, Bev Fitzpatrick, said, “As president of Peace Fresno, I knew it was important that we organize a local presence to let the greater Fresno community know that we oppose any military action in Syria. The Peace Fresno members decided on several types of demonstrations.

“The Fresno Light Brigade (The People’s Bandwith) was at the corner of Nees and Blackstone within days of President Obama’s response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria. That event brought out many people and had great media coverage. Our messages that night were… NO WAR ON SYRIA and PEACE IS GREATER THAN WAR.

“Next, we held a silent vigil in the plaza at Courthouse Park to motivate the larger peace community opposed to more U.S. war and encourage people to contact Congress. We have also joined and supported other groups holding Light Brigade demonstrations with Peace Madera in Madera, Peace Hanford in Hanford and we joined many groups for a candlelight vigil in River Park on all four corners at El Paso and Blackstone.

“Every Saturday in recent weeks, beginning at 10 a.m. many Peace Fresno members have joined the ‘No Syria War’ protest at the Peace Corner, Shaw and Blackstone. Finally, on 9/11, Fresno Light Brigade’s message was DIPLOMACY NOT WAR and that is and will be our continued message.”

FREEfresno and No War With Syria–Fresno, Peace Fresno, the Fresno Light Brigade, Peace Madera and Peace Hanford have been active in resisting the charge for war. The Fresno Light Brigade has also taken their message on the road, displaying their lighted sign at the doorstep of Sen. Diane Feinstein’s house in San Francisco and on the Golden Gate Bridge during a foggy night.

While war has been averted for the short term, it is still a possibility. Either way, look for these groups to be out bringing awareness to the public and their representatives (see sidebar).

*****

Mike Bridges got his start in activism through the Occupy movement. He co-founded the Fresno Light Brigade and is currently a board member with Peace Fresno.

 

Peace Groups in the Fresno Area

Peace Fresno
www.peacefresno.org

Peace Hanford
www.facebook.com/peace.hanford

No War With Syria – Fresno
www.facebook.com/nowarwithsyriafresno

Fresno Light Brigade
www.facebook.com/FresnoLightBrigade

Peace Madera
www.facebook.com/PeaceMaderaCA

  • Mike Rhodes is the executive director of theCommunity Alliance newspaper and author of the book Dispatches from the War Zone, about homelessness in Fresno. www.mikerhodes.us is his website. Contact him at mikerhodes@comcast.net.

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