A spirited crowd of about 60 protestors gathered in Indianapolis Saturday, August 31, 2013, on the east steps of the Indiana Statehouse, facing one of Indianapolis’ main downtown thoroughfares, demanding that Obama not engage in military action against Syria for alleged use of chemical weapons by the beleaguered Assad regime in power there. (Self-disclosure: I was there both as journalist for examiner.com and as protesting participant—as I’ve been an active antiwar protestor ever since 1965, and have continuously raised my voice against U.S. military actions in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan since then.) Despite the sweltering heat, which had officially reached 95 ° F. by midday, the protestors stayed on the Statehouse steps chanting their opposition to military involvement from 12:30 till almost 2:00 in the afternoon, then marched down to the AFL-CIO-sponsored Laborfest to take their antiwar message to the “middle class.” Marching through the fenced-off Laborfest, the marchers received a good response from the gathered trade unionists, but were quickly driven out of the area by angry Indianapolis Sheriff’s deputies on the grounds that the protestors did not have a permit to be there. Honking car horns from passing motorists indicated a lot of support for the “No war with Syria!” message.
While the marchers were mostly young, they encompassed persons of all ages, middle-aged and retired as well. Many identified as either libertarians or anarchists, suspicious of social control and government interventions, and opposed to both the Democratic and Republican Parties and distrustful of politicians generally. The signs of the protestors also linked opposition to action to Syria to other causes as well: opposition to stifling dissent and violating the U.S. Constitution, past failed military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the government/corporate partnership that many saw as in control of government policy and stifling of individual rights—and crossed any left-right political divide, as persons from the right joined with persons of the left to oppose military intervention in Syria, which some protestors feared as a prelude to World War III.
Signs were often colorful, and expressed original slogans. One such slogan compared Obama to a disobedient dog, Barry, and admonished, “Stay (out of Syria). Bad boy!” One older man sported a “Veterans for Ron Paul” T-shirt, while another older man, Don Fisher, told me that back in 1968, during the anti-Vietnam War ferment, he had made a figure-8 trek across the United States and concluded, “While the people were generally good, they were ill-served by government.” Other protesting signs blessed peacemakers by quoting Matthew 5:9 from the Sermon on the Mount, while another stated, “I SEE HUMANS BUT NOT HUMANITY.” One woman wore a t-shirt that stated, “Government: Too Many Fools Making Too Many Rules.” Two other signs stated simply, “Make Jobs Not War” and “Smoke Weed Not Syria.”
While the protestors were mostly white, four young African American men also protested with them, and one of these men agreed with me when I stated that intervention in Syria was a black issue also, as a large number of young African American men were among those who lost their lives in combat.
There was also spirited chanting, much of it led by Joshua Grunden, one of the organizers, who’d brought his bullhorn. Another key organizer was Katie Brown, who hails from the southern part of Indiana, down by the Kentucky border. One popular chant was “Bombs here, bombs there, U.S. out of everywhere!” Another, taking off on a popular chant by the labor movement, asked: “What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!” While most of the protestors were from the Indianapolis area, including two from the affluent northside suburbs of Carmel and Fishers, Katie Brown and her friends had made a 3½-hour trek from Owensboro, Kentucky. She and Grunden had organized activities over the previous 24 hours through Facebook and other social media, and originally there had develop three different antiwar activities scheduled—with one group meeting at Veterans Memorial Plaza, then moving to join the others at the Statehouse. Several of the participants had brought their children, and several also provided much needed bottled water to protestors upon request. TV news coverage was extensive, bringing out the three top news networks in the Indianapolis/Central Indiana area—reporters and cameramen came from Channel 8, Channel 13 and Fox 59, in addition to me, as an online print journalist.
Overall, a well-organized protest called at the spur of the moment over a Labor Day weekend that drew a very good turnout for such. The evening before, there was a small symbolic action by the Indianapolis Peace and Justice Center (IPJC) of nine people with signs spelling out “No War with Syria” while another man with the IPJC stood with two signs, one of which read “Impeach Obama.” “Impeach Obama” signs were also present among the protestors Saturday, and indicate that the call for his impeachment, long a staple among right-wing groups and individuals, is now drawing support from the left as well due to his stated desire to militarily intervene in Syria, even unilaterally. But he seems now cognizant that U.S. public sentiment is against this, and has now called for Congressional debate on U.S. intervention, hoping to get approval this way; this in the face of the narrow vote in the British Parliament Thursday against English involvement in such an action, as well as Russian statements that U.S. intervention would be considered as hostile and a violation of international law. There is also the matter of Obama, stating back in 2007 when he was a Senator, “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” This quote was also carried on a sign at Saturday’s protest.