As one of more than 200 participants in the “Vigil Opposing Attacking Syria” Monday night, Brown said it is important to show politicians that the public doesn’t approve of using military force as a response to the Syrian government’s possible use of nerve gas against its people.
“I don’t think diplomatic channels have been exhausted,” said Brown, who suggested President Barack Obama approach the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. “All that will be more difficult, if not impossible, if we engage in a military strike.”
The vigil, organized by the American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts, was one of about 225 rallies across the nation as part of a MoveOn.org national day of action.
Many in Northampton voiced their concerns about military action, with many worried that even limited military strikes would divert funds from important domestic programs such as health care and education.
“We can’t afford, nor does the American public want, another war,” said Jeff Napolitano, program coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee.
Napolitano said the vigils had to take place Monday, in advance of a national address by Obama Tuesday night and an expected vote on the resolution Authorization of Use of Military Force by the Senate that could come on Wednesday.
“Tonight is the night for the population to say we don’t want war,” Napolitano said.
Napolitano said the war in Iraq has cost the United States lives and hurt the economy. “We’ve lost blood and treasure overseas,” Napolitano said.
He observed that the vigil shows there is widespread disapproval of military action, as 100 signs he printed reading “The enemy is not this country or that country, but war itself” were all quickly handed out and the fence was surrounded on both Main and King streets.
Other people brought homemade signs — “The spark from one attack can lead to war,” “Obama no-bomb-a” and War is not the answer, it’s the cause” — that they held up along with candles.
Tim Carpenter, a representative of the Progressive Democrats of America, urged those gathered to spend the next two days contacting U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, and to not forget the cost of engaging in war.
“Let’s remember it’s $1.4 million for every Tomahawk missile this government wants to lob into Syria and Damascus,” Carpenter said.
“War is never the answer,” said longtime Northampton peace activist Frances Crowe, who argues that governments will lie to their citizens when they want to go to war. “It’s not a good solution for jobs. We need a jobs program, we need to develop public transportation and we need infrastructure for society.”
She compared what is happening in Washington to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that authorized President Lyndon Johnson to take action in Southeast Asia and ultimately led to the escalation of the Vietnam War.
“I think we have to sit down and negotiate. It’s not our business,” Crowe said. “And remember, we’re making these (chemical) weapons in Fort Detrick, Md.”
Linda Gordon of South Hadley, a member of the Raging Grannies, said she is disappointed that Obama is pushing for a military solution.
“We want Obama to keep the hell out of Syria,” Gordon said. “Use diplomacy, not force. Keep talking. No fighting, no attacking.”
The Raging Grannies performed three songs, at one point marching across Main Street.
Kae and Mairi Coyne of Easthampton came with their children, Alyssa-Anne Kelly, 10, and Joe Kelly, 6.
Mairi Coyne said she wants others to know where her family stands.
“I think it’s (the vigil) important because we feel strongly opposed to war with Syria or anyone else,” Coyne said.
“It’s just out of hand. The entire situation is out of hand,” Kae Coyne said.
Coyne said the United States is in danger of further distancing itself from other countries and could be putting American lives at risk. Coyne suggested a different approach. “Practicing diplomacy and compassion might be a step,” Coyne said.
Their children also are nervous.
Alyssa-Anne said she is worried people in Syria are starving and need humanitarian aid.
“I hope Syria won’t be bombed by the president,” Joe said.
Locally, vigils were also staged in Amherst and Williamsburg.
At the downtown Amherst vigil, about 25 people held signs and candles to draw the attention of passers-by and send a message to the powers that be, said Mary Wentworth, who helped organize the rally with Yoev Elinevsky.
“I think it’s good to have these public demonstrations because it helps people who share the objective of the protest to feel they are not alone,” Wentworth said.
Joe Alcaraz of Leeds, a disabled Vietnam War veteran observing the Northampton vigil, appreciated what he was seeing.
“I think it’s great. I wish they (the government) would stop already. Enough is enough,” Alcaraz said.
But he isn’t confident that this will affect decisions made in Washington.
“I hope it has an impact, but I seriously doubt it,” Alcaraz said.
Michael Brown said the vigil was as much about showing area residents how they feel. “It’s important for us to express ourselves to each other,” Brown said.
“We need to express our opinions,” Mairi Coyne said. “It’s better to come out and express them than sitting at home.”
Original article on Gazettenet.com