Juneau groups rally for peace

The Juneau peace march started at the Labor Department parking lot and ended at Marine Park. Photo courtesy Jane Ginter.

A small group of Juneau citizens added their voice this weekend to the growing number of anti-war rallies being held around the country.

The march along Egan Drive to Marine Park attracted the horns of motorists, perhaps agreeing the U.S. should stay out of the Syrian war.

Organized by Juneau People for Peace and Justice, and Veterans for Peace, about 30 people rallied at the waterfront, drawing a few tourists who listened to the speeches and joined in the peace songs.

A young Muslim girl wearing  a traditional hijab, held a sign stating No More Vietnams, Iraqs, Afghanistans – and no Syria.   

Maha Abdulrazzaq  is an exchange student from Yemen.  She has been in Juneau just a month and is a junior at Thunder Mountain High School.

Maha Abdulrazzaq from Yemen is an exchange student at Thunder Mountain High School.

She said she’s glad to find the people she’s met so far do not fit the Middle East stereotype of Americans.

“I’m really happy that people here care about the Middle East, about Syria, about Muslim people, about the Arab people,” she said. “Many people in Yemen and the Middle East they think  that American people hate Arab and the Muslim people, but that’s not true.”

Abdulrazzaq is living with Suzanne Haight, who carried a War is Not the Answer sign.  Like most at Saturday’s gathering, Haight has been to other Juneau peace rallies.  But there have been few since Barack Obama was elected president.

President Obama’s threat of U.S.-led intervention into the Syrian civil war has invigorated the peace movement.  Before the talk of a diplomatic solution tabled the threat last week, it was clear most Americans opposed the prospect of another war, even if it was in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons.

Alaska’s congressional delegation members have received thousands of constituent comments against involvement in Syria, and for the most part have listened.

The Juneau peace marchers acknowledged that.

“We’re not here just to demonstrate our opposition to bombing Syria, we’re here to thank a few people,” said Rich Moniak, who’s been actively demonstrating for peace since 2005.

“We’re here to thank Don Young for standing up against this action. We’re here to thank Mark Begich for putting enough conditions on what it would take for him to vote for an act of war. And even though Lisa Murkowski is on the fence, her hesitation also contributed to slowing down the war-making machine,” Moniak said.

Saturday’s march and rally were organized by Veterans for Peace and Juneau People for Peace and Justice.

Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula has joined a number of capital city peace rallies over the years.  But this time, she admitted, the atrocity of chemical weapons caused her to pause before accepting an invitation to speak at the rally. Then she thought, “you have to be against aggression, you have to be against war, no matter why the cause.”

She quoted Mahatma Ghandi.

“‘What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism  or the holy name of liberty  and democracy.'”

Kerttula continued:  “That says it to me.  You know if we go and kill innocent people it’s not going to matter if we did it for the right cause.”

The United States and Russia on Saturday reached an agreement on a plan to remove or destroy Syrian chemical weapons.   But U.S. officials said the possibility of military force against Syria remains.

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