Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Marchers defer to St. Nick

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Winnipeg's Santa Claus parade put the city out of step with a series of global marches set to show solidarity for Syria's war victims.

Peace marches around the globe were organized to draw attention to the children and civilians caught in the brutal civil war.

But organizers for Walk 4 the Children of Syria decided to give way to Santa Claus, Walk 4 the Children, Dima Alsayed said.

"Because of the Winnipeg Santa Claus parade we decided to do it (today)," Alsayed said.

Some 60,000 Winnipeggers crowded downtown to see the Spirit of Christmas resplendent in red velveteen.

The event, with floats and and block parties the length of the parade route on Portage Avenue, kicked off the holiday season.

Peace marches can't compete with Santa's fame, organizers said.

Today, about 60 people are expected to turn out at the legislature at 2 p.m. for the Syrian march, a day later than anywhere else but with just as much fervour, Alsayed said.

Around the world Saturday, thousands marched through the world's capitals in simultaneous events organized by a Washington D.C. based non-profit group called the Syrian American Alliance.

The walk went global after the success of a similar walk in American cities in September. Events were organized for most American and Canadian cities as well as in Australia, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East.

Alsayed said she was born in Syria and moved to Canada 10 years ago as a teenager.

Her daughter, 7, helped make some of the placards to be used today.

"She's Canadian but we have so many relatives living there who have lost their homes and children who have lost their parents. So I asked her to imagine what she would say: She wrote a couple of them. They say things like 'I lost my home. I lost my father,' " Alsayed said.

Winnipeg's Syrian community has grown from three families to about 50 people since the brutal war erupted.

The route will move north on Memorial Boulevard, east on York Avenue, south on Garry Street and west on Broadway back to the Legislature.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 18, 2012 A3

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