Ohio University students gathered Tuesday in front of the Athens County Courthouse to voice support for Syrian refugees in response to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s statements about his desire to keep refugees out of Ohio.
About 40 people attended the rally, which aimed to draw attention to what they called racist opinions and policies that were growing out the attacks in Paris this past weekend. Speakers included various members of the Athens branch of the International Socialist Organization, which was the group that planned the event.
Tyler Barton, a member of the ISO, referred to the group commonly known as ISIS as “Daesh,” an acronym that comes from the Arabic name of the Islamic State and has negative connotations, according to The New Republic.
“Ohio Gov. John Kasich and many other U.S. state governors were publicly demanding to close the borders to Syrian refugees,” Barton said. “It was a predictable behavior, but for me, it was a breaking point. I refuse to stand by and passively watch as the rich and powerful attempt to turn tragedy of the terrorist attack in Paris into an anti-Arab racism at home and imperialist wars and occupations abroad.”
Another speaker at the rally was Bobby Walker, an ISO member and a junior studying women’s, gender and sexuality studies who criticized the U.S.’s involvement in wars abroad.
“In the same breath that we condemn and mourn the attacks in New York, D.C. and Paris and Syria and Lebanon, we should also condemn the billions of dollars that our government has pumped into wars overseas, the racist Islamophobic rhetoric that has spewed to justify those imperialist wars,” Walker said as she addressed the group.
She emphasized the need to resist unfairly generalizing the violence of ISIS, the group that has claimed responsibility for the Paris terrorist attacks, a Russian plane bombing, and others, to all Arabs and Muslims, and she also spoke about the United States’ role in creating the current situation.
“When they tell us to be careful of Syrians, of refugees, of Muslims, we must be adamantly opposed to the regulation and profiling of innocent people who are only heeding our laws and our terror, not creating their own,” Walker said.
The Ohio House of Representatives passed a symbolic resolution on Tuesday that encouraged President Obama to stop accepting Syrian refugees, the first state legislature to make such a move, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
However, the rally participants disagreed with this sentiment and instead encouraged people to be welcoming toward refugees.
“The refusal to open our doors and our homes to refugees is the most unkind thing we could possilby be doing in this situation for people who purport to care about other citizens and the poor,” said Claire Seid, a junior sociology major. “If you consider yourself at all a human of empathy with any sort of religiousity that opening your door and mind is the only course of action.”