Occupy Tampa honors fallen Syrian protesters; wary of US intervention

02/08/12 Janelle Irwin
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The UN estimates more than 5,000 Syrians have died during the country’s nearly year-long uprising. In response, a handful of Occupy Tampa members honored the fallen last night with a candlelight vigil at downtown’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. They all want to see an end to the bloodshed, but they don’t necessarily agree on how involved the U.S. should be.

Michael Fernandez lit candles in front of a sign with the Syrian flag and the words “free Syria” painted on it. Fernandez thinks citizens should get involved. But the U.S. shouldn’t if it would mean another military conflict.

“I think the Syrian people should have the support materially, intellectually, morally and physically of anyone who is opposed to oppression anywhere and I think people should be traveling to Syria to help the Syrians have a revolution of their own on their own terms. Using it as an excuse to get involved in another military conflict in the Middle East and just ramp up the military machine even more than it already has been I think is a mistake and probably illegal under international law and just flat out dumb.”

The U.S. has pushed for a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, but it was blocked by Russia and China. Mark Propper, also from Occupy Tampa, said he doesn’t understand why there seems to be a hesitation to get involved.

“I first want the UN to pass a resolution that says we’re going to get involved and see, hopefully, if it can be resolved peacefully without a veto so that we’re not just allowing him to kill his own people and giving him the go ahead by not acting.”

But Propper also realizes the slippery slope that comes with any American intervention.

“I also want to make sure that when we do get involved that we are meeting the needs of the Syrian people and listening to what they have to say instead of just going in there, supporting regime change and then opening up their country to American markets.”

The Occupy movement is known for its support of the bottom 99 percent of the economic totem pole, but Propper said,

“We are also supporting things internationally and that we’re not just an at home organization, that we understand that international involvement is important and that there’s a way that Occupy – an ideology that Occupy can offer to the international community in creating egalitarian, working democracies in other countries instead of just imposing Western will on foreign markets for puppet governments that we set up over there.”

All of the people who came to pay their respect to those killed in the Syria uprising hoped they could also raise awareness in the public and the media. Michael Fernandez agreed, but that wasn’t his first priority.

“I’m here giving thanks for the fact that we aren’t getting shot at yet and to honor the brave men and women who have been giving their lives in Syria for the type of freedom that we’re also, to a great degree, fighting for. The third world is everywhere; it’s not just over there.”

Bashar Al-Assad has been Syria’s Shi’ite leader for more than 11 years even though Sunni Muslims hold the majority. The uprising began in Syria last March in the city of Deraa where protesters called for an end to the Assad regime.

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