NEW ORLEANS - Shortly after President Barack Obama called for military action in Syria, protesters in New Orleans took to the streets.
They're calling on congress to vote against military strikes in Syria.
In Washington Square Park, several dozen protesters hoped Congress would hear their message Saturday afternoon. They marched through the busy streets of the French Quarter to Jackson Square, spreading the word that they object to Obama's call for U.S. military action in Syria in response to allegations that Syria’s president waged a chemical attack on his own people.
“You don't save people by blowing them up. We've had enough wars,” said Raphaelle O’Neil, protest organizer.
“I think [Obama] should wait until the UN is done with their investigation, they just left there yesterday so I feel like he's rushing the decision right now,” said protest or Katie Brown.
Protesters are quick to point out that they stand with the Syrian people but they don't believe war is the answer. They say peaceful negotiations should happen first.
“Let them make peace, force them to sit down and talk and stop killing each other,” said Samear Zaitoon, a Syrian native and founder of the Arab Christian Foundation in Baton Rouge.
Obama is leaving it up to Congress to decide whether the U.S. should take military action. Congressional leaders based in the metro area say they plan to make an informed decision.
“While there's a consensus in Congress that we don't support boots on the ground in Syria, I think there's also a reluctance because of the wars our nation's been in in the last 12 years,” said Congressman Steve Scalise, R- Metairie. “We don't want to get in the middle of this civil war that's going on in Syria. So if the president has a plan for a limited strike, I think a lot of us, both Republican and Democrat, want to see what that limited strike would be.”
“I think we have to take military action. Assad killed 1,400 people, including 400 children, using chemical weapons. We're the United States, we're the exceptional country and we're exceptional for a reason and we cannot sit back and let that happen,” said U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D- New Orleans.
"Using military force in Syria is a serious matter, and the President is correct to seek Congressional approval,” said Senator Mary Landrieu, D- Louisiana. “I will carefully examine the facts in the coming days as Congress debates what the appropriate action is.”
"I applaud President Obama for seeking explicit Congressional authorization regarding any strike on Syria, as so many of us had demanded. This is the constitutional and the smart thing to do. I stand ready to return to Washington at any time,” said Senator David Vitter, R- Louisiana.
One expert on Middle Eastern affairs believes a U.S. military strike could create even more chaos in the area. Dr. Behrooz Moazami, assistant Loyola University history professor, says U.S should only act with global support.
“I don't think [military action] is the solution. I think the momentum that has been created by this madness with the use of chemical weapons can be used to bring some sort of stability now,” said Moazami. “If there is a moment that would be possible is now. War is not an answer.”
Moazami believes the U.S. should ask the United Nations to send inspectors to the region to find out beyond a reasonable doubt who committed the chemical attack, ask for a complete ceasefire, and ask for an international presence there. He says there is still too much international uncertainty over who committed the chemical attack, although Obama says there is compelling evidence that it was indeed Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Scalise says military action in Syria will likely be the first item congress discusses when they return to Washington September 9th.
The Senate Foreign Relations committee will take up the measure starting Tuesday.