A planned rally to support peace amid U.S. military intervention abroad became something more intimate Thursday afternoon once it was clear few people were attending.
Young Progressives Demanding Action — a small, unofficial student group originally organized to support 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — originally planned “Buckeyes Rally for Peace” for Monday, but pushed back to Thursday afternoon for the group to try involving some other student organizations.
YPDA members said the rally idea came as a response to the United States Navy’s cruise missile attack on a Syrian airfield last week. By coincidence, The U.S. made more waves in the news Thursday by dropping its largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan, targeting an ISIS compound.
Shayrat, the Syrian air base, is thought by U.S. officials to have been the source of planes used in a chemical weapons attack earlier in the week which caused the deaths of more than 70 civilians.
“It was planned and organized right after the airstrikes and I think the original motive was just to show solidarity (with the people of Syria),” said John Collier, a fourth-year in economics. “While we’re not supportive of a war, we are supportive of taking in as many refugees as we can.”
President Donald Trump — who ran on an anti-refugee platform — signed two executive orders in the first months of his presidency banning refugees from Syria and restricting international travel from certain Middle Eastern and African countries. Both orders have been halted by federal courts.
“These are pretty much stateless people we’re talking about now” said Melissa Ma, a second-year in political science and also a YDPA member, of Syrian civilians. “They do not have a state that’s trying to protect their rights”
“Contacting our congressmen is a very good place to start, but what more can we do?” — Kelly Schroeder, second-year in political science and public affairs
Most of the afternoon’s discussion focused on drawing more people into resistance of foreign interventions and what that resistance might look like.
“Obviously (this event) is not as big as we had hoped,” said YDPA president Kelly Schroeder, a second-year in political science and public affairs. “And it’s not as intersectional as we hoped.”
Several people discussed the White House and Pentagon not waiting for congressional approval for the airstrike and suggested contacting Ohio Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown to voice displeasure.
Still, some argued this may not be enough.
“Contacting our congressmen is a very good place to start, but what more can we do?” Schroeder said.
The event did draw a few people unaffiliated with YPDA.
Jack Warfield, a second-year in astrophysics, said he came to see how YPDA’s thoughts on foreign policy compared to Socialist Alternative, which he is a member of.
“I just decided to come out and see what (YPDA) had to say,” Warfield said. “I guess our position is maybe more hardline than theirs. Socialist Alternative is mainly bringing up the issue of the United States and Russian imperialism and how that’s destabilized the region.”
Local artist and musician Brian Griffin — a 1989 Ohio State alumnus — offered a historical perspective for those protesting the current administration’s foreign policy by sharing his experience protesting the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“We’ve been down this road before,” he said. “What we’re doing here is raising awareness because one of the things after the (Iraq) war started (was) anybody who protested against the war — we were out there — people were throwing stuff at us (saying), ‘Get a job,’ or, ‘You’re not supporting the troops.’ And the thing is, you’re showing the most support to the troops ever by not letting them go and die needlessly in some other place where our goals are undefined or we don’t have any goals at all.”