Minnesota peace activists applaud giving diplomacy a chance in Syria

Peace activist Steve McKeown (left) looks on as President Barack Obama addresses the nation about Syria. (MPR photo/Jon Collins)

Following President Barack Obama’s announcement Tuesday night that he’d pursue diplomatic solutions in Syria, about 30 anti-war activists in the basement of the former American-Nordic Center in Minneapolis declared victory.

But 66-year-old Steve McKeown, a longtime member of Veterans for Peace, said he doesn’t feel particularly joyful that war with Syria, at least for now, has been averted.

“People have been killed in this, people have to be held accountable for what’s happened,” McKeown said. “I guess we’re feeling happy that there’s this possibility that we’re not going to add further fuel to the fire, but we’re in it for the long haul.”

McKeown’s service as an Army radio operator during the Vietnam War helped forge his anti-war ideals. He helped found the Twin Cities chapter of Veterans for Peace in the 1980s, a time of often clandestine U.S. actions against countries in Latin America.

McKeown is a regular presence at peace vigils. Yesterday the retired machinist was among a group of protesters holding a banner against war in Syria above I-35W. He said he hasn’t seen so much support for an anti-war stance in a long time.

“I would say that two out of five cars honked or waved, I only saw one person that was in dissent and I saw truck drivers all over the place honking in support,” McKeown said. “When truck drivers are on your side, that’s a good sign.”

MPR News reporter Matt Sepic talked with Minnesotans about Obama’s Syria speech last night.  Here’s Sepic’s story: