Citizens gather in protest of possible conflict with North Korea

Eileen Ryan of Watertown wears her banner for peace at the Emergency Rally to oppose war in North Korea at Park Street Station Friday afternoon. PHOTO BY CAROLYN KOMATSOULIS/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF Eileen Ryan of Watertown wears her banner for peace at the Emergency Rally to oppose war in North Korea at Park Street Station Friday afternoon. PHOTO BY CAROLYN KOMATSOULIS/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Originally published in the BU Free Press.  Article by Ghazal Randhawa.  Photo: Carolyn Komatsoulis/ Daily Free Press Staff

Over 40 people gathered Friday afternoon near the Park Street Station to rally against conflict in North Korea. The event was organized jointly by the United for Justice with Peace, Massachusetts Peace Action and the American Friends Service Committee.

Boston residents at the rally carried posters and cheered in support for speakers. A small group of counter protestors advocating for war in North Korea stood nearby the rally interrupting the speakers periodically, shouting things like “If it wasn’t for the Clintons, North Korea wouldn’t even have nuclear weapons.”

Cole Harrison, executive director of Massachusetts Peace Action, said North Korean disputes should be handled through negotiation.

“We have to challenge the mainstream narrative that North Korea is crazy,” Harrison said. “There is a long tension between the U.S. and North Korea and it has to be settled by negotiation, not by military force.”

Paul Shannon, program associate for the American Friends Service Committee’s Peace and Economic Security Program, said the situation is alarmingly tense.

“We have a tremendous nuclear crisis in Northeast Asia right now,” Shannon said. “We have the United States surrounding the area with its navy, air force, army, 26,000 troops in South Korea who are all practiced on how to take out the North Korean regime. We have a president who, when they ask him ‘Is there a chance of war?’ says, ‘We’ll see.’ This situation couldn’t be more frightening.”

Shannon said AFSC has a history of actively fighting impending wars.

“We have been active on a lot of anti-war issues over the years,” he said. “We have to build the peace movement here because it’s not just Korea but all kinds of other crises.”

Shannon said he urges every citizen to reach out to their local representatives in the Senate and Congress to push for peaceful negotiations with North Korea.

“The North Korean regime says they will never do it as a preemptive attack, but if they are attacked, they will do something and God knows what,” Shannon said.

Sofia Wolman, a graduate assistant at the Harvard Divinity School, said there is a need for immediate action, but violence is not the answer.

“We have another moment to call into question the use of war and the existence of weapons, what we see in these photos which is hell on earth,” Wolman said. “War being used as way to settle conflict, I think, is wrong.”

Mike Connolly, state representative of east Cambridge and Somerville, said during the rally it is important to stay informed on foreign issues.

“It’s important for me to stand here with you because it’s all too easy for us to forget about foreign policy and militarism,” Connolly said.

Hyebin Hong, a Ph.D. student at the Boston University School of Theology, said the U.S. government needs to think of the innocent North Koreans that would be caught in the conflict.

“How can you save the North Koreans from the dictatorship without risking a military collision in the Korean peninsula?” Hong asked. “How can you help them without violating their autonomy as the people of the sovereign nation?”

Several residents came to the rally to speak out against U.S. conflict with North Korea and the handling of the situation by the current administration.

Steve Nunez, 30, of Somerville, said he came to fight the continually expanding power of the presidency.

“The power rests in the hands of few,” Nunez said. “Since the development of the atomic bomb in 1945, the executive branch has really gained a lot more exponential power and it’s exponentially growing as time goes by with the use of these nuclear weapons.”

Nunez added that he sees this crisis affecting more than just Americans and North Koreans.

“The entire world is resting on a button and that’s really terrifying and I think people need to be aware of that,” Nunez said.

Kaspar Kasparian, 69, of Arlington said the situation could be fixed with calm negotiation.

“We have a very critical situation that’s escalating towards war and even if it’s just trying to protect [America], there’s a risk of mistake being made,” Kasparian said. “The best thing to do is to provide diplomacy.”

Christie Dennis, 85, of Cambridge said she doesn’t agree with the threats being publicized by the Trump administration.

“I think we have misunderstood North Korea horribly and all we seem to know how to do is just threaten our way into peace,” Dennis said. “It’s just the wrong way to go about things and I very much object to this on so many levels.”