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Possible US-led attack on Syria sparks rallies in Kansas City

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -

Protesters around the world took to the streets to protest Saturday for and against a possible U.S.-led attack on Syria, as President Barack Obama announced he would seek congressional approval for such a move.

Obama said the U.S. should take action against Syria to punish it for what the U.S. believes was a deadly chemical attack launched by Syrian President Bashar Assad this month that killed more than 1,400 people. But Obama said he wants Congress to debate and vote on whether to use force, and has said any possible strike would be limited.

There were calls for peace and chants for help on the same Kansas City street corner near the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain on Saturday, as protesters both for and against U.S. intervention in the Syrian crisis spoke out.

"We hope that, just by standing out here, holding a sign, it's going to wake a few people up, maybe show to our Congress that there are American people out there who are against this, who are going to speak out against this," protestor Jeremy Freund said. "I know they're already well aware of that, and hopefully, they take that into consideration when it comes time to vote on this."

The Syrian-Americans in the metro say they can't stand the reports from home anymore, that too many people are dying, and now the Syrian government is accused of using chemical weapons on its own people.

"Including kids. They are being killed in their sleep. When I heard that, it was basically the worst thing I have ever heard in my life," Mohammad Taha said.

They believe a limited air strike is the only way now to try to push Assad out of power.

"It's important that we take the lead, and we say this is wrong. We can't let him keep doing this to his own people," Alma Habib said.

But those opposed to U.S. involvement say the U.S. is not the world's police.

"Getting involved in a civil war that we have nothing to do with, in a region that's already de-stabilized, is going to do nothing but further de-stabilize the region and could potentially turn this into a much bigger mess than it already is," Freund said.

And having both sides so close together led to some healthy debate, but protesters said that kind of free debate is exactly what they're fighting for.

"We have a democracy in the United States, and the people's voices really get heard. I don't have that back in Syria, in my country," Habib said.

Local members of the political community also voiced their opinions after the president's announcement.

"After weeks of claiming he could and would make this decision on his own, the president's announcement today marks an astonishing change of course," said U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri. "While congressional approval is the best course of action and the right thing to do, it would have been the right course of action months ago."

U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver II said he has been one of the biggest proponents of enforcement of the War Powers Act.

"I think the president has done the right thing," Cleaver said. "I am still opposed to military intervention, but I want to hear more from constituents and get more information that should be available to members of Congress in the next few days."

The demonstrations erupted on both east and west coasts of the United States, and cities in between.

In Houston, which has a large Syrian-American population, about 100 people lined up on opposite sides of a street in an upscale neighborhood to express opposing views on a possible U.S. attack.

"We want any kind of action. The world has stood silently and it's been too long. Something needs to be done," said Tamer Barazi, a 23-year-old civil engineer who carried a Syrian flag and a sign stating "Syrian Americans for peace, democracy and freedom in Syria."

Standing across the street in Houston's sweltering heat were those opposing U.S. intervention, outnumbering the supporters of an intervention. Some carried signs stating "We Don't Want Obama's War" and "Hands Off Syria."

"How would you like another country to decide who is going to be the president of the United States?" asked 53-year-old Hisam Saker, a Syrian-American property manager who has lived in Houston for 33 years.

In Washington, as Obama addressed the nation from the Rose Garden, anti-war demonstrators chanted and waved placards outside the White House. Across the street, Syrians and Syrian-Americans who support U.S. action waved flags from their country and shouted for Assad's ouster.

"The conflict's been going on for, what, almost two years now. Estimates are 100,000 Syrian civilians have been killed and all of a sudden the U.S. government has manufactured the excuse of the use of chemical weapons in Syria to use that excuse to intervene in Syria," said Tristan Brosnan, 25, of Washington.

Later, in Los Angeles, about 200 people shouting "Hands off Syria" protested against a possible American strike. They waved signs reading "No More War" and police said they wrote up more than 40 citations after demonstrators sat in street intersections and blocked traffic. Police reported two arrests.

In Boston, more than 200 protesters demonstrated in the Boston Commons against the possible use of American force. They chanted "Don't Bomb Syria!" repeatedly, and at least one speaker said congressional authorization wouldn't make an attack acceptable.

More than two dozen protesters gathered at the Arkansas Capitol to oppose a possible U.S. attack. Some wore T-shirts proclaiming "NO U.S. INTERVENTION IN SYRIA."

"I had friends that died in Iraq, and I don't want more people to die for nothing," said Dominic Box, 23, expressing some of the fears of a war-weary public.

In downtown Chicago, about 40 people walked quietly in the rain, circling a sculpture in Daley Plaza. Some carried signs that read "No War In Syria" and "Shut It Down."

"I don't believe in spreading democracy the way they're doing it," said Tyke Conrady, 44, who attended the protest with three friends.

In London, more than 1,000 protesters carrying Syrian flags and placards marched to Downing Street and rallied in Trafalgar Square. Some hailed the parliament's vote Thursday against British participation as a victory.

And about 700 people turned out for an anti-war demonstration in Frankfurt, Germany, police said. Organizers said only a "sovereign, independent Syria free of foreign interference" would make it possible for the Syrian people to shape the country's future.

At a protest organized by left-wing opposition parties in Amman, Jordan, Kawthar Arrar described any military intervention as "an aggression on the whole Arab world." The protesters gathered outside the U.S. embassy, chanting slogans and setting fire to American and Israeli flags.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press.  All rights reserved.

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