Protests against a potential war between the United States and Iran as well as the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq and other countries in the Middle East took place across America over the weekend in the wake of the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
On Saturday, demonstrators took to the streets of some 70 cities across the country, including Chicago, Washington D.C., New York City, and more. The bulk of the protests were organized by the ANSWER Coalition earlier in the week to call for an end to airstrikes in Iraq and the removal of all U.S. troops, but quickly became a cry to stop a potential war with Iran in the wake of the killing of Soleimani. Other national organizations like CodePink, Veterans for Peace, and various chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America, as well as local organizations in participating cities signed on to either cosponsor or endorse the protests.
“What’s the definition of stupid? Doing the same damned thing over and over again and expecting different results,” said Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism at a rally across the river from Trump Tower in Chicago. “That’s what the United States has done under both Democratic and Republican administrations for the last half century.”
President Donald Trump, who has made hollow statements to stop “endless wars” in the Middle East, also ordered some 3,000 additional troops to be deployed to various locations throughout the region last week. According to House Democrats, the airstrike that killed Soleimani without authorization or consultation from Congress.
“Tonight’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America—and the world—cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return,” Pelosi said in a statement on Thursday after news of the strike had broken. Trump officially informed Congress of the action on Saturday.
Peace activists and others are concerned President Trump’s decision to assassinate Soleimani and the increase in troops could touch off a larger conflict that could bring further death and destruction to the region. In addition to criticizing Trump for the action, they’ve also criticized Democrats for what they say is a mostly muted response to the escalation.
“Both Democrats and Republicans have coordinated efforts and combined to wreak havoc on this entire region,” Mike Jasko of the Party for Socialism and Liberation told USA Today at a protest in Cincinnati. “What we’re seeing with the airstrikes of the assassination of an Iranian general is that we’re seeing tensions escalate, and they want another war.”
On Friday night a crowd of demonstrators protested in front of Senator Chuck Schumer’s apartment in Brooklyn, New York.
Brooklyn DSA protest against war with Iran happening now pic.twitter.com/fKcojr4Vug— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) January 4, 2020
At a Saturday protest in Washington D.C., activist and actress Jane Fonda told demonstrators that the climate change and anti-war movements must be “one movement,” and asked the crowd if Americans haven’t learned lessons from the Vietnam war.
“Young people should know that all of the wars fought since you were born have been about oil,” Fonda said, according to The Guardian. “It’s always been about oil, and it’s killing people in the Middle East, and oil is killing us here, killing our climate, fires in Australia, we have to stop. We can’t any more lose lives, kill people and ruin the environment because of oil and fossil fuels.”
President Trump, administration officials, and his loyalists have continually argued that he does not want a war with Iran. “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Trump told reporters on Friday, according to Politico. In nearly the same breath however, the President has repeatedly contradicted himself.
In a Twitter thread on Saturday, Trump said that “as a warning” to Iran “we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!” Shortly after, the President boasted about the United States spending some $2 trillion on military equipment.
The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2020
Back in Chicago, demonstrators marched through the Loop after they rallied, and at one point briefly took over some lanes of Lake Shore Drive. The action was reminiscent of a 2003 protest against the looming war in Iraq at the time, where more than 10,000 people took the same expressway, resulting in more than 800 arrests.
While marching throughout the city, demonstrators chanted “no more war,” “no justice, no peace, U.S. out of the Middle East,” and “”they say America first, we say humanity first!”
Niko, a member of the PSL, echoed that chant and expressed concern that the real goals of the Trump administration’s march to war with Iran are related to profit and the upcoming 2020 election.
“It clear to us these acts of war are not perpetrated out of concern for humanity,” they said. “They are perpetrated only to aid the ruling class agenda. It is no coincidence that after the airstrike that killed Soleimani oil prices increased nearly 4 percent. It is no coincidence that the stock market prices of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and other military contractors also took off. It is no coincidence that this escalation towards war has occurred in an election year directly after Trump’s impeachment.”