Coast to coast U.S. protests demand: “U.S. out of Iraq! No war or sanctions on Iran!”

By Betsey Piette
January 7, 2020

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Just days into the new year and a new decade, on Jan. 4, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in 80 cities across 38 states to demand U.S. out of Iraq and no war or sanctions on Iran. Many activists described the massive turnout as the largest anti-war protests since 2003.

The widespread emergency protests were based on only three days of urgent social media blasts by the Answer Coalition, Black Alliance for Peace, Code Pink, IFCO/ Pastors for Peace, International Action Center (IAC), Popular Resistance, United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), U.S. Peace Council, Veterans for Peace and World Beyond War. Joining in were many other social justice and left organizations, including Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), U.S. Labor Against the War USLAW), United for Peace and Justice, and Workers World Party (WWP).

The collective actions from diverse organizations brought people into the streets to oppose the criminal assassination by the U.S. on Jan. 3 of General Qassem Soleimani, leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units.

In its call for protests, Popular Resistance stated: “The United States has been conducting a ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran, but these assassinations are a new level of recklessness and lawlessness.”

Coast-to-coast protests from Fayetteville, Alaska, to Portland, Maine, ranged from small picket lines to turnouts of thousands demonstrating in major cities.  All actions were on Jan. 4, unless otherwise noted.

People in U.S. chant: ‘No war on Iran!’

Hundreds rallied at Park Street Station in downtown Boston in a militant rally to denounce U.S. imperialism’s murderous assassinations and the escalating criminal war waged by Big Oil, the Pentagon and Wall Street against Gulf region nations resisting military aggression and occupation in defence of their national sovereignty.

The rally reflected a growing movement of anti-war and progressive organizations, including Answer, the Committee for Peace and Human Rights (which has held a weekly anti-war vigil since the first Gulf War), DSA, IAC, Mass Peace Action, the National Iranian Advocacy Council, Team Solidarity of Union Steelworkers Local 8751– the Boston School Bus Drivers, UNAC, Vets for Peace, WWP, and Bernie supporters and student groups, all uniting around the demand:  “Stop the bombing, stop the war, bring the troops home now!

The rally ended with a multinational, multigendered youth-led march, with the Vets for Peace delegation close behind. Taking to city streets, they received overwhelming support from passersby, many joining in to express their shared outrage at Trump’s war escalation. Chants of  “Occupation is a crime, from Iraq to Palestine!” and “Money for Jobs and Education, Not for War and Occupation!” drew a connection between U.S. wars abroad and the deepening war on poor and working-class people in the U.S.

In New York City, hundreds rallied in Times Square in fierce opposition to the U.S. escalation of war against Iran. They marched to Herald Square, chanting for the U.S. to get out of the Middle East, Latin America and Africa and end its coups and sanctions. One sign noted the murderous campaign the U.S. has waged against Iraq since the first Gulf War in 1990: “U.S. killed over one million Iraqis! No more murdering for Wall Street.”

Protesters denounced the assassination of Soleimani by drone strike at Baghdad International Airport as an act of war and violation of international law and Iraqi sovereignty. The action was supported by many antiwar and social justice groups, including Answer, Black Alliance for Peace, Code Pink, IAC,  IFCO/Pastors for Peace, the Peace Council, The People’s Forum, UNAC, Vets for Peace and WWP.

Chanting “Iran is not our enemy, war is not the answer,” more than 125 people rallied in freezing rain and snow in Syracuse, N.Y. Speakers raised that the military-industrial corporations, like Lockheed Martin in central New York, reap billions profiting from war, when the cost of one Predator Drone could pay for 10 affordable housing units. Ed Kinane, of Upstate Ground the Drones, said assassin drones, similar to that used to kill Soleimani, are piloted out of Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport by New York National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing.

An Iranian-American activist told WW: “I am used to these episodes of rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. This has been the reality of U.S.-Iran relations for decades, and although it hurts, it became ‘normal.’ This time, it feels like almost overnight I woke up and there is a war, but the truth is that we had been at war this whole time.”

A young Iranian woman, who works with the local refugee community, emphasized the suffering inflicted by war and said, “We are here to protest U.S. war crimes!” Organizations calling the regional protest included CNY Solidarity Coalition, DSA-Syracuse, Geneva PSL, Geneva Women’s Assembly, the Green Party of Onondaga County, Syracuse Peace Council, and Vets for Peace CNY Chapter.

Anti-war activists in Buffalo, N.Y., gathered for a demonstration that stretched for a full city block. Organized by the Western New York Peace Center, with IAC-Buffalo participating, it denounced U.S. aggression toward Iran and opposed U.S. occupation of the Middle East.

Over 700 people turned out for a rally and spirited march in Philadelphia, receiving broad support from passersby. “U.S. imperialists — the real terrorists” was a popular chant during a long march through Center City.  Participants included older activists from the decades-long anti-war movement, with a majority of younger and more diverse activists from protests against police brutality and white supremacy, for im/migrant rights, climate justice, in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal and for LGBTQ+ rights.

Most younger speakers, having grown up under the U.S. state of endless wars, represented a growing class consciousness about the need for anti-racist, international, working-class solidarity.

Ted Kelly, representing WWP, opened the rally, affirming: “We are rising up to say, ‘No War for Oil, No War in the Middle East and No to U.S. imperialism!’” Kelly referred to a Prison Radio commentary by Mumia Abu-Jamal on the devastating impact of the U.S. actions. Abu-Jamal stated: “The U.S. assassination of Soleimani isn’t an end — it’s the beginning of things to come.”

Anh Nguyen, with Philly SocFem, raised the impact of U.S. weapons of mass destruction, chemical warfare and targeted attacks on the people of Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and more. Nguyen’s Vietnamese immigrant parents were children scarred by the U.S. war in Vietnam.

Deandra Price and Anthony Smith with Philly REAL Justice compared racist police occupation of U.S. communities of color to U.S. military occupations abroad. Other speakers included Bessam Idani of Socialist Alternative, Dr. Asad Sadiq with Shia Association of North America and Mexican immigrant activist Carmen Guerrero, who spoke about the historic U.S. theft of Mexian land. Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture of Black Alliance for Peace called for an end to Africom, the U.S. military presence in Africa.

A diverse crowd of over 100 people gathered at Schenley Plaza in Pittsburgh to join in denouncing the assassinations of Soleimani and Al-Muhandis as acts of war and war crimes. A counterprotester infiltrating the rally was immediately surrounded and expelled to chants of “Nazis out!”

Several hundred rallied at the state capitol building in Raleigh, N.C., saying, “No War on Iran.” Organizers from the Piedmont N.C. Chapter of DSA convened the rally, with speakers and participants from Black Workers for Justice, the Durham Workers’ Assembly, the Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia (MERI), Muslims for Social Justice and Vets for Peace. All were united in demanding “U.S. out of the Middle East,” an end to sanctions, and the need for an international anti-imperialist movement.

About 150 people rallied in Atlanta against the threat of another endless U.S. war for profit. The gathering at the Little 5 Points shopping district was much bigger than organizers expected. Passing drivers lent a steady sign of approval by honking their horns. The majority of protesters were youth, including a soldier from Savannah and others who came from outside the Atlanta metro area with their own hand-made messages.

For two hours the crowd chanted, billboarded the street and applauded speakers denouncing the recent U.S. attack. The Atlanta IAC brought its big green banner: “No threats! No sanctions! No war on Iran!” Local chapters of Answer, DSA, the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, and Refuse Fascism also brought banners and signs to line the street.

Over 100 people turned out in Cleveland to say, “U.S.! Hands off Iran, Syria and Iraq!” The local call was initiated by Cleveland Peace Action and  Code Pink. Speakers included Swetha Kareti of PSL-NEOH, Elias Khawam with CSU Middle East and North Africa-MENA student group, and Martha Grevatt for Workers World Party. Don Bryant of the Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network chaired

Dozens of demonstrators attended the “No war on Iran! U.S. out of Iraq!!” event in Columbus, Ohio, carrying signs and shouting slogans demanding the U.S. military leave the Middle East and cease aggression toward Iran.  The event was sponsored by Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists, Central Ohioans for Peace, Code Pink, Columbus Socialist Alternative, Columbus DSA, Jewish Voice for Peace Central Ohio and YDSA Ohio State. Members of PSL, WWP,  Ohio for Bernie and U.S. Congressional candidate Morgan Harper also attended.

Over 100 anti-war demonstrators gathered in Des Moines, Iowa, near the state capital building on Jan. 5. Despite the distance between Iowa and Iran, many Iowans are outraged by the U.S. assassination of Soleimani, the escalation of U.S. military aggression and the increase of U.S. troops in the region — all of which point to another disatrous imperialist war. Organized by Central Iowa DSA, the march called for “an end to the new wars, the forever war, and all wars.”

Some demonstrators were long-time veterans of the anti-war movement, while for others it was their first time taking part in such an action. They braved cold winds to march over a mile carrying signs with such slogans as “No War But the Class War,” “No More Oil Wars” and “End Endless Wars.” They chanted: “No more blood for oil, U.S. off Iraqi soil” and “Iowa is here to say, No War, No Way.” When protesters reached the I-235 overpass, they walked to the middle and unfurled a giant red banner reading, “No War with Iran.”

Around 1,000 people gathered in Denver, the Colorado state capital, and marched the length of downtown in response to the national call. They waved signs and chanted, “No War on Iran” and “No More Endless Wars.”  Speakers denounced the U.S. attempts to start a war with Iran and emphasized that Iraqis, Iranians and people in the U.S. are angry and have had enough of U.S. military adventures that have caused great suffering.

Two demonstrations were held in Houston on Jan 5 to protest the assassinations and President Trump’s threats to attack Iran. The first protest, called by the Houston Socialist Movement and co-sponsored by PSL and WWP, was held at an intersection where more than 60,000 cars pass through daily. There was constant honking of approval from passing drivers. Dozens of militant speakers, including students, youth and the elderly, rallied the crowd, condemned Soleimani’s murder and demanded imperialist U.S. get out of the Middle East.

The later action of over 200 people in a Houston downtown park was sponsored by Black Lives Matter, DSA, Indivisible Houston, Students for Justice in Palestine and SURG-HTX. The protest attracted many Democratic Party people and groups, who made a big push for voter registration. While the participants were definitely opposed to a U.S. war in the Middle East, they espoused solutions that relied on voting and holding politicians accountable.

About 50 people gathered in San Antonio, Texas, in front of the Fort Sam Houston military base to protest U.S. military aggression. Most of the crowd was young and multinational. During speeches by many veterans, including younger vets, a woman who had served in the U.S. military torture prison of Abu Ghraib spoke of her pain and guilt at having been there. Shelley Ettinger of WWP emphasized international working-class solidarity in resistance to U.S. imperialism. Speaker Judy Lerma represented her nurses’ union.

On Jan. 3, over 300 protesters gathered in Portland, Ore., at the “No War on Iran” rally called by the local DSA. “We need to show strong opposition to the illegal war Trump is trying to launch in Iran,” said key organizer Olivia Katbi Smith. “This is not about democracy or protecting Iraqi, Iranian or American people. This is about money and power.” Smith emphasized the need to organize in workplaces connected to the war machine: “Locally that includes the Boeing facility in Gresham and Leupold & Stevens, a Beaverton-based company that manufactures military equipment.”

A speaker from the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party said the U.S. is founded on imperialist and colonialist violence. U.S. expansion is the real root cause of Soleimani’s assassination. Other speakers included Sahar Yarjani Muranovic, president of the Oregon chapter of the National Organization of Women, who was born in Iran; Marwan Ibadi, born in Iraq; and Albert Lee, a congressional candidate.

Sarah Schneider, from Never Again Action, which fights the persecution and deportation of U.S. im/migrants, said, “We’ve invaded other countries and created a situation that drives refugees over here,” identifying U.S. imperialism and colonialism as responsible.

Emily Kollantai from WWP commented, “It gives me hope to see people from across the left making time to speak against the crimes of U.S. imperialism and protest a war the likes of which we’ve seen a dozen times before. It’s important that activists continue to organize events like this.”

In the San Francisco Bay Area, chanting “No Sanctions — End the War,” nearly 2,000 people rallied, then marched from San Francisco’s downtown shopping district to U.N. Plaza where a rally was held under the statue of Simon Bolivar. The protest gathered a broad group of organizations, including Answer, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, BAYAN, DSA and Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism. A statement from the IAC and WWP was delivered by Judy Greenspan during the closing rally.

A rally in downtown Seattle drew 400 demonstrators demanding, “No War on  Iran. U.S. Out of Iraq and the Middle East!” which was a strong rebuke to

Trump’s aggression and terror.  Participating organizations were Anakbayan Seattle, Answer, Code Pink, DSA-Portland, Seattle Anti-War Coalition, Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee, Veterans for Peace  and others.

Contributing to this article: Nigel Bouvart, Judy Greenspan, Teresa Gutierrez, Audrey Hoak, Mike Kuhlenbeck, Joshua Link, Dianne Mathiowetz, Jim McMahan, Lyn Neeley, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Jimmy Raynor, Gloria Rubac, Brenda Ryan, Susan Schnur, Maureen Skehan, Viviana Weinstein. 

(Photo: Maureen Skehan)

(Photo: Brenda Ryan )

(Photo: Minnie Bruce Pratt )

(Photo: Ellie Dorritie )

(Photo: Joe Piette)