Protestors make Syria opposition clear to US Reps. Johnson, Ryan

COLUMBIANA – A group of locals are doing what they can to keep the United States out of Syria.

The group flanked the state Route 7 and 14 intersection Monday holding protest signs and getting honks of approval from passing motorists.

They hope to influence the votes of their local congressmen, Bill Johnson, a Republican who serves Columbiana County and Tim Ryan, a Democrat who serves Mahoning County.

Congress is soon expected to weigh in on President Barack Obama’s request to airstrike the country that borders Iraq. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was quoted by CNN on Monday saying his country would lash out in “potentially unpredictable ways” after a U.S. airstrike. He said the U.S. lacks the evidence his government was behind he August poison gas attack.

Obama responded he doesn’t believe the country has the capability to carry out a significant attack and believes it is “no threat” to the U.S., according to the CNN report.

At least three of the local protesters disagreed and believe U.S. involvement could be the start of World War III.

“When you go into a country and cause harm and damage, that is war,” Loretta Price of Salem said.

She and Candy Davis of Mahoning County and Shawn Flowers of Struthers believe the involvement could be disastrous for the U.S.

“Our country is broke. There are two ways to bring down a country. One is by war and one is by devaluing currency and we are in the middle of both,” Price said.

Davis said it could lead to World War III, and that while she supports the military she doesn’t believe they should be put in harm’s way unless there is a clear objective, and she doesn’t believe a clear objective is present for attacking Syria.

“There is a big difference between defending our country and having a military presence in 70 percent of the world. We shouldn’t be the world’s policemen. That’s not one of the powers of our federal government,” she said.

Davis was holding a sign that read: “Not Another Endless War.”

The group has not yet spoken with Ryan, but visited Johnson’s Salem office earlier that day and even spoke with him via a conference call, as he was in Washington D.C. all day.

Flowers, who is a former Columbiana County resident, said he opposes involvement because the country has been in war long enough.

“We’ve had over a decade of war. It’s just gotten us more enemies and more debt. I think the American people have had enough. I think the soldiers have had enough,” he said.

He voted for Obama in 2008, but the president’s decision to lead the country into Libya without approval from Congress in 2011 changed his mind. He did not support the president in the 2012 election.

Flowers also believes the Obama administration has “credibility issues” and did not approve of the administration’s support of indefinitely detaining U.S. citizens and foreigners suspected of being affiliated with terrorists.

The detaining is allowed under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 and Congress granted the president authority to arrest and hold individuals accused of terrorism without due process.

With regards to Syria, Flowers believes it is not any concern of the U.S. or national defense and described it as a “civil war.”

Davis said the U.S. should be making commerce with other countries, not war. “War has become our industry,” she said.

The group is hopeful Johnson will vote against the airstrike.

Mollie Reister, the congressman’s Communications Director in Washington D.C., said he phoned in to speak with the group after learning they were at his Salem office.

“He did a conference call with them to hear their concerns and let them know how he currently feels about the issue in Syria. He has been very vocal about his opinion on Syria. As of right now he doesn’t feel there is enough information to justify a military strike over there,” she said.

She went on to say he has conducted a few interviews on both the local and national level in an attempt to make a case.

As of Monday evening, “He hasn’t made a formal decision because he is keeping an open mind and letting administrations voice their concerns,” she said.

USA Today reported that of the 533 lawmakers that make up the House and Senate only 44 are already in support of the airstrike while 149 oppose. The rest remain undecided.

The roughly half-a-dozen protesters began their efforts at 3 p.m. and left the intersection around 5:30 p.m.

Flowers said the group got together for the protest through a local meet-up group.

Price said while they were not representing any one particular group or organization, most are associated with Campaign for Liberty.