Locals rally to oppose Syria strike

YOUNGSTOWN – With chants of “No more wars” and “Hands off Syria,” demonstrators gathered under umbrellas in Federal Plaza to protest the possibility of the United States bombing Syria in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons on its citizenry.

“Better to have rain falling down upon us in Youngstown than bombs falling down on us in Damascus. That’s why we’re here to try to do what we can as peacemakers,” said Werner Lange of Newton Falls, who called the rally that drew more than two dozen participants.

Referring to the Vietnam Memorial behind him, Lange said he believes the Vietnam War began from a government lie and that the same is happening in Syria.

“Obama is lying about the chemical weapons and using it as a pretext for another war. I say and I hope you join me in saying: no more lies, no more war!” he said.

Similar gatherings were held across the country on the eve of a televised speech from President Barack Obama, who has been trying to rally the nation and world to support his calls for limited military strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Nachwa Alloush spoke during the rally about her family in Syria. Though she lives in Warren, Alloush said her four sisters and many family members live in Aleppo, Syria.

“All my family is there. … They have no gas for cars to travel; it’s just a disaster. They’re afraid to walk in the street. They have no food. The rebels took everything,” Alloush said.

She said she has been unable to contact them since the Internet was cut off last week.

Fouad Mansour, of Boardman, said one of his Syrian cousins was killed during the war, despite the fact that his entire family are civilians.

Mansour said there are numerous Syrian families in the New Castle, Pa., area and in Pittsburgh, and several in Youngstown as well. He said his family overseas is depending on America for support, but not with bombs.

“They know right now the only thing we have over here is the American people to support us. You don’t fix killing with killing,” he said.

He did, however, express support for Assad and the Syrian army, saying they are the only ones protecting the Syrian people while the rebels are coming from numerous other Middle East countries and causing the problems.

“The number one thing now is to stop the war” said Mansour.

An Associated Press poll showed that 61 percent of those surveyed want Congress to vote against authorization of U.S. military strikes in Syria and 26 percent want lawmakers to support such an action, with the remainder undecided.

mthompson@tribtoday.com