Group protests involvement in Syria at Graceada Park in Modesto

naustin@modbee.comAugust 31, 2013 

As the United States weighs its options to punish Syria for an alleged chemical weapons attack, a small group at Graceada Park on Saturday voiced opposition to possible military intervention.

"We're really passionate about it because we don't want war," said Sophia Gilbreath, 13, holding up a sign that read "Hands off Syria! No new wars! No more war!" Beside her, Lyssa Kelly, also 13, held up a sign that read "Stop World War III."

Sophia's twin sister, Bella, said she is worried about the backlash against U.S. involvement in the region.

"It might backfire and have people attack America," she said.

Both said their father, a Marine veteran, supported their decision to join the rally, saying that their right to protest was a freedom he fought to preserve.

Every few minutes, a motorist on Needham Street would honk in support. Only an occupant of a passing pickup voiced disapproval — "No one cares!" could be heard as the vehicle passed.

The rally started at noon and featured a dozen people, mostly adults. It came on the heels of President Barack Obama saying that Syria needed to be held accountable for a deadly chemical attack this month that killed civilians. Several of the protesters held signs voicing opposition to National Security Agency surveillance programs or insulting police. The rally ended shortly before 2 p.m.

Many of the protesters refused to give their names, saying as anonymous voices they spoke for everyone. Some of the nameless voices said they were against war on principle, while others spoke heatedly against Obama, saying he "needs to be on the front lines."

Danny Black of Riverbank said he heard about the rally on Facebook and wanted to do his part to help the nation avoid another Middle East conflict.

"War has never solved anything. We keep hearing about these wars to end wars. But they never do," he said.

Organizer Josh Britt said he heard about an international day of protest against U.S. involvement in Syria and wanted to give local support to the effort. "We're just doing our part here in Modesto," Britt said.

"We support our troops, but we don't support another war," he said.

Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339, on Twitter @NanAustin, www.modbee.com/education.

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