An estimated 200 Oklahomans put aside their political and philosophical differences Friday night to join together to oppose U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war.
For an hour Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians, conservatives and liberals, hawks and doves didn't seem to mind the nearly triple-digit temperatures during the anti-war rally on the south steps of the state Capitol.
“This is an interesting mix of folks,” said Ben Odom, a former state Democratic Party official, before speaking to the crowd.
“That's been the positive thing about this,” said Odom, of Norman. “People talk about where's any sort of bipartisanship or the ability to span ideological gulfs — well this has done a little bit of that. You've had people working together that normally don't work together.”
Those attending the rally are concerned the United States may support the armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has regained the upper hand more than two years into an insurgency.
They were asked to sign petitions asking Oklahoma's congressional delegation to support two bills, HR 2495 and S 1201, which would prohibit the president from intervening militarily in Syria without explicit congressional authorization.
“We have no political or moral obligation to intervene in another nation's civil war,” said state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, an organizer of the rally.
American troops are exhausted after fighting the past dozen years in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
“We have spilled enough American blood in the desert sand,” Wesselhoft said. “This civil war is not our business.”
Nathaniel Batchelder, director of the Peace House in Oklahoma City, said it's hoped the rally will prevent escalation of U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict. Those opposing the war should not be considered unpatriotic, he said.
“You can support the troops and love them and not support a bad policy,” Batchelder, of Oklahoma City, said.
State Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, said there are numerous reasons not to get involved in Syria.
“We have no business being there,” he said. “We have homeless here in the U.S. ... we have all kinds of domestic agenda items that we should be investing in ourselves and taking care of ourselves. We did not start the war in Syria and we are dangerously close to arming a faction that we have no idea whether they actually agree with the principles of liberty, the principles of freedom.”
Lukus Collin, a member of the Libertarian Party and a Christian pacifist, said the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that liberty and peace can't be separated.
“We've seen this example with the war on terror — the more that we're intervening abroad violently the more we're losing our liberties here at home,” said Collins, of Oklahoma City.
Richard Onley, of Oklahoma City, said he attended the rally to oppose U.S. intervention. He has been protesting wars and conflicts since the Vietnam War in the 1960s and '70s.
“I don't like war, I like peace,” said Onley, who was holding a sign that read, “Love the Dove.” “I don't think the United States should be involved in any foreign war.”