Hundreds of protesters marched through downtown Los Angeles streets Saturday afternoon to denounce proposed military action in Syria.
The group condemned President Barack Obama's decision to ask Congress to approve strikes in the Middle Eastern country, and many argued any action against the regime of Bashar al Assad would lead to a long-term war that wasn't in the best interests of the United States.
"Why doesn't he feed the women and children at home before he goes to hurt women and children in Syria?" Deva Fletcher asked. "And this would hurt the Syrian people, not help them. In a war the women and children would be the most affected and I can't support it."
Fletcher also said there hasn't been enough evidence given to the American people that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against its citizens, despite the first hand accounts from United Nations inspectors.
"We need to see the canisters of what was sprayed," she said, and called into question the reliability of the U.N. inspectors. "We need an independent investigation. They're not independent. We need information from someone that isn't backed by any government."
Other protesters echoed her sentiments about the veracity of the reports coming out about the war-torn country and the cost to the U.S.
"We don't want another war that's going to use our tax dollars," said Orlando Pardo. "They've been lying that Assad is using chemical weapons. He let U.N. inspectors in. Why would he do that if it was true? I think it was the rebels who used the gas."
Pardo said he is concerned the claims of chemical weapons use are similar to allegations made in the run up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Now that we're getting out of those, we know that there were no weapons of mass destruction," he said. "How are we to believe this now?"
Pardo is a member of Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Los Angeles, the local chapter of the national activist group often called the ANSWER Coalition, which helped organize the protest. At least sixteen other activist groups urged members to join the rally, including Arab-Americans 4 Syria, the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles and Veterans for Peace.
The group gathered at Pershing Square around 1 p.m. and a large group of a few hundred began marching in the surrounding area. The group returned to the square around 3 p.m., and some protesters gathered in the street at Hill and Fifth streets.
Soon after, a group of just more than a hundred broke off and marched up Hill Street toward Chinatown. The activists marched in the street, escorted by LAPD officers that shut down blocks ahead of the group. They crossed the 101 Freeway overpass and paused for a few minutes to show signs saying things like "No War in Syria" and "No War for Empire" to the drivers passing by below, many of whom honked in support.
Later, the protesters tried to march onto the on-ramp of the 101 and 110 freeways at Grand Avenue, but were blocked by police and after a few minutes moved on and marched back to Pershing Square. They picked up some additional protesters after again staging a sit-in in at the intersection of Hill and Fifth streets.
According to Pardo, the organizer, ANSWER LA is already planning additional rallies in Los Angeles to protest any action in Syria.