More than 100 protesters marched in Allentown, Pa., in opposition to U.S. military action in Syria. Lu Ann Cahn of NBC Philadelphia reports.
Demonstrators gathered in cities and towns across America on Friday to protest a possible U.S. military attack on Syria, with more demonstrations planned Saturday.
In Allentown, Pa. — home to one of the U.S.'s largest Syrian-American populations — more than 100 people gathered for a march at St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, many of them holding Syrian flags and pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"The American public doesn't want this. They want peace, not war," the Rev. Moufid Khoury, head of the Arabic ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Allentown, told NBC Philadelphia.
The rally's organizer, Aziz Wehbey, president of the Syrian American Society in the Lehigh Valley, said the forceful statements made by Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials were reminiscent to the buildup to the Iraq war.
"We don't want another Iraq in Syria. The whole Iraqi war was built on a lie," he told the station. "Now we see the same scenario is repeated in Syria. We don't want any civilians to be killed in Syria."
A small protest took place Friday in Iowa City, Iowa, a day ahead of a larger rally scheduled for Saturday.
"Not only is it wrong, in the terms of the reason why we're doing it, the way in which we are doing it is also illegal," the rally's organizer, Ed Flaherty, director of the Iowa chapter of Veterans for Peace, told NBC station KWWL of Waterloo.
Many Americans agree: In a poll released Friday by NBC News, half of Americans said they were opposed to any U.S. military action in Syria, even if it's limited to airstrikes from off shore.
Scot Bol, one of about a dozen protesters who marched down Superior Street in Duluth, Minn., on Friday night, complained that "we've solved our problems for too many years by using our military and muscles and our force."
"We need to show we really have truthful wisdom on our side by using diplomacy and showing them our ideas are better," Bol told NBC station KBJR of Duluth.
A similar rally is scheduled Saturday near the Louisiana Capitol in Baton Rouge.
"It's just absurd. I mean we don't have the money to do it," organizer Jenae Wise told NBC station WVLA of Baton Rouge.
"People want to help, but the only option that they're giving is 'let's bomb, let's get the military.' There's no side that can win. ... There's got to be millions of billions of brilliant people who can find another option."
But opposition to U.S. action isn't unanimous — even among Syrian-Americans.
"Nobody is asking for American boots on the ground. Syria has enough men and women to defend itself," Feras Alhlou, president of the Northern California chapter of the Syrian American Council, told NBC Bay Area. "We just want the U.S. to disable [Assad's] use of chemical weapons. That is what we are asking for."
Alhlou said his sister and his father recently fled Syria in fear, and that other of his relatives have died.
"My wife's uncle, he was shot dead in a government sniper attack," he said.
More on Syria from NBC News:
- UN weapons inspectors pull out of Syria ahead of schedule
- Kerry calls attack against Syrian civilians 'crime against humanity'
- John Kerry's nine reasons for action in Syria
- Exclusive: Panetta says US can't wait for others to act on Syria
- Doctor: 'Apocalyptic' attack on Syrian schoolkids
- 'We will not repeat that moment': Why Syria isn't a rerun of Iraq
- NBC poll: Nearly 80 percent want congressional approval on Syria
- Syrian Electronic Army seen as nuisance, not a serious cyberthreat
- How Tomahawk cruise missiles may send messages to (and from) Syria