In a rare instance of officially tolerated dissent, opponents of President Bashar Assad gathered in the capital Damascus on Sunday, September 23 to call for his removal from power, The New York Times reported. The meeting brought together representatives of about 20 domestic opposition groups, including leftists and longtime dissidents who have struggled to stay relevant as the uprising has become a war. A statement from the meeting called for an immediate cease-fire and for the Syrian Army to fully withdraw from towns and cities. The gathering, organized by the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, appeared to be an attempt by the groups to wrest the mantle of the revolt from armed militias and exile figures. Some antigovernment activists dismissed it as a cynical show by the government, to portray itself as willing to engage its critics.