400-plus march in Irvine for Syria freedom (MSNBC)


By ERIC CARPENTERTHE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER  The Orange County Register

IRVINE — More than 400 demonstrators gathered on an Irvine street corner Saturday evening to show support for freedom in Syria.

IRVINE -- demonstrators gathered on an Irvine street corner Saturday evening to show support for freedom in Syria.

The demonstrators, including college students, young children and senior citizens of Syrian heritage, came from across Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside counties to Irvine, which has a large Syrian American population.

“We want to raise public awareness about Syria and the need for freedom there in a peaceful, positive way,” said Ammar Kahf, 31, an American citizen with Syrian roots who lived for several years in Garden Grove before moving to Hawthorne.

“I know that at times people can become complacent, but we continue to organize these kinds of vigils so the light will carry on and change will come to Syria,” Kahf said.

Residents of Syria have been protesting unemployment, inflation, ineffective government and a lack of democracy for months — mirroring similar protests in Tunisia and Egypt.

The Syrian government has met protesters with force — more than 390 Syrians have been killed, according to some estimates.

Kahf, leader of the Los Angeles branch of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, said his group has led marches for weeks, typically on Sundays.

But they organized Saturday’s event at Culver Drive and Alton Parkway to coincide with demonstrations in Chicago, New York and several other major U.S. cities marking National Fallen Heroes Day in Syria.

In Irvine, marchers waved signs at passing motorists; the signs included slogans such as “Free Syria” and “Down with Dictatorship.”

Yasser Dalati, 40, of Irvine said he hopes the demonstration will influence the U.S. government to play a greater role in demanding change in Syria.

“People are marching peacefully in Syria and getting killed for it,” Dalati said. “If we can save a life, this is the least we can do.”

Contact the writer: 714-704-3769 or ecarpenter@ocregister.com

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