June 19, 2024

Sep. 24—Advocates gathered outside Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace on Sunday to show support for Ukraine and denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continued war on the country.

Angelo Frazier, pastor at RiverLakes Community Church, told the crowd of maybe 20 people that the country’s independence was paramount to western democracy.

“This is not a protest, but a prayer,” Frazier said.

Frazier said he has been a stalwart advocate for Ukraine’s independence since the second offensive began in February 2022. In that time he’s hosted several rallies and a trip to Washington, D.C., in April for the Ukraine Advocacy Summit.

After more remarks by Frazier, the crowd splintered into smaller groups that sang or prayed for peace. A woman sang the national anthem of the United States and that of Ukraine.

The rally was organized by Frazier and local organizations, including Shield of Freedom, House of Ukraine, Stand With Ukraine Foundation, Hong Kong Forum Los Angeles and Baltic American Freedom League.

It comes a day after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Saturday that he will push to keep $300 million in military aid to Ukraine in the federal defense budget, a day after the Bakersfield Republican said he would remove it in the face of pushback from his right flank.

“It became too difficult to do that, so we’re leaving it in,” McCarthy told reporters.

Budget talks are important, Frazier said, but continued military aid should be non-negotiable.

“It’s sad that we’ve gotten to this place and yet there are people within our Congress … the loudest voices in Washington — the freedom caucus — who are taking advantage of this,” Frazier said. “I can tell you that if 150,000 troops surrounded Washington, they wouldn’t be talking about budgets.”

He linked the suffering of Ukrainians and the war fatigue felt across our nation to Russian propaganda that has “seeped into American politics,” resulting in “flawed arguments and negative rhetoric.”

Continued support for Ukraine nationwide is divided. A faction of right-wing lawmakers in Washington have increasingly come out against sending further military aid to Ukraine — including in McCarthy’s home district.

Frazier said that even at his church, some argue they should pray for more pressing matters.

“‘Why are you praying for those people? We’ve got issues here,'” Frazier recalled. “That’s not what this is about. Tell me that people aren’t being slaughtered in the street.”

This comes four days after President Joe Biden appeared before the United Nations General Assembly to try to counter war fatigue experienced at home and abroad.

“We have to stand up to this naked aggression today to deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow,” Biden said. “That’s why the United States, together with our allies and partners around the world, will continue to stand with the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity — and their freedom.”

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