Syria protest draws small gathering in Baton Rouge

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Rich Wallace holds a sign and protests war against Syria on the steps of the State Capitol on Saturday in Baton Rouge.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Rich Wallace holds a sign and protests war against Syria on the steps of the State Capitol on Saturday in Baton Rouge.

A small crowd gathered Saturday at the steps of the State Capitol to rally against the U.S. taking military action in Syria.

“I just don’t want to see any more war,” said Kendall King, one of the protesters who disregarded the sweltering August heat.

The demonstration, which was organized over Facebook, the social networking site, came as President Barack Obama told the nation he would ask Congress to green-light a punitive response to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

In televised remarks, the president said he had the authority to launch a strike without congressional authorization, but had decided to ask lawmakers for their take on the issue when they return from vacation next week.

Protests were held in several U.S. cities Saturday, drawing people such as Rich Wallace, 60, of Baton Rouge, who said the event marked his first foray into activism. “My fear is they’re trying to kick off World War III,” said Wallace, holding a sign that read “nObomza.”

“I have children and grandchildren, and so do the Syrians,” he added. “We’re all people, and I think 99 percent are against war.”

The protest began a little before noon with a handful of demonstrators. Jenae Wise, the event’s organizer, said the crowd grew to about two dozen people.

State Police, however, put the afternoon crowd at between 10 and 15 people, Trooper 1st Class Nick Manale said.

Like many of the protesters, Wise claimed the only solution to prevent another protracted military operation in the Middle East would be to impeach Obama. She condemned the use of chemical weapons, which reportedly killed more than 1,400 people in Syria, but said the situation was unlikely to improve with U.S. intervention.

“I just have a bad feeling about this one,” Wise said. “Syria has been in a civil war for two years — this is their own thing. Where was Obama in Darfur with people getting slaughtered left and right?”

Motorists driving along Interstate 10 Saturday morning may have noticed a group of demonstrators on the Nairn Drive overpass and a sign that called for Obama’s impeachment.

Wendy Allen, who was holding an American flag with the group of about a dozen people, said that their protest was a part of the Overpasses for Obama’s impeachment movement and not related to the demonstration at the Capitol.

“We were organized before the Syria situation,” said Allen, who said she has been dissatisfied with a number of chapters of Obama’s presidency. “It’s nothing personal. I think he needs to stand up and be a leader.”