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Syria vigil pushes for peace

Julian Burrell
Staff Writer

Sudden stormy weather on the evening of what had been a bright summer day was not enough to keep nearly 80 local protesters off of the corner of Foothill and Indian Hill Boulevard in Claremont on Monday.

Those present had assembled in protest of the expected Congressional decision to send the U.S. military into Syria as a response to their armies use of chemical weapons in the local civil war.

“I was at the first Civil Rights march and I want to be here as a witness for a cause that I believe in, no matter the weather conditions,” said protester Edwin Aluzas, 68.

The many protestors carried candles and signs that bemoaned the tragedy of getting involved in the Syrian conflict.

Though the rain soon escalated into lightning flashes in the distance, even the roar of thunder did not drown out those driving by, honking their support for the protesters.

“If the rain is what stops us … we shouldn’t be out her in the first place,” Aluzas said.

Edwin’s wife, Gloria Aluzas, 65, organized the protest as a call for, “restorative justice and not retaliatory justice,” that she believes any violent responses from the United States would equate to.

“Obviously this has us all disturbed. The use of chemical weapons on the innocent people of Syria is a true tragedy and one that must be stopped. But an airstrike is not the proper response,” Gloria Aluzas said.

“We have enough problems here; we have enough homeless vets, disease, conflicts and problems here that deserve our attention before we worry about others,” said protester Deborah Occhiogrosso, 53.

Occhiogrosso echoed Gloria Aluzas’ sentiments with tears in her eyes, saying that the use of chemical weapons was a tragedy, “but we can use diplomacy to fix that. We don’t need to drop bombs to make our point.”

Protesters said that they hope to gain more Congressional attention on the issue and help the U.S. government become aware of people’s opinion on the issue.

“We want a lot of media coverage on this. The decision isn’t set in stone since there are a lot of members of Congress that are sort of on the fence about the issue,” Occhiogrosso said. “Maybe if they see this, they’ll see what they have to do and put a stop to this.”

James Stripling, 88, a World War II veteran also was among the Claremont protestors.

“If they approve (the attack) we’ve got warships sitting on the corner of Syria and they will bombard that nation and hit people, not just soldiers they’re claiming to target, but ordinary people.”

Even if Congress does eventually go through with the retaliation on Syria, many of the protesters felt a sense of duty in expressing their disapproval.

“If I didn’t do this, I would feel guilty. Even if it doesn’t work, I have to know that I did something to try and prevent it,” Gloria said.

“I’m here to make a witness. I’m not in charge of the results,” Edwin said. “I know I can’t do a whole lot, but little things like this help, and I’m happy to participate.”

Congress is expected to come to a decision on the matter in the coming days.

Julian Burrell can be reached at julian.burrell@laverne.edu.

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