In a day of coordinated actions across the country protesting the assassination of Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad this past week, dozens of people showed up in the cold drizzle to express their opposition to this act of war. Most of the crowd was white, but it was an otherwise diverse group, from young millenials who are relative newcomers to protesting to seasoned older people who’d been doing it for decades.
The first people I encountered were three young men and a young woman who were with the local chapter of a socialist worker’s organization. I introduced myself and chatted briefly with them as they waited for the rest of their group. They handed me a leaflet that said “Defeat U.S. Imperialism – Defend Iran.” The leaflet described the bipartisan imperial project of the U.S. government and decried the corporate media’s characterization of the assassination as an “impulsive” move by Trump. “Nonsense. It was a brazen provocation to force Iran to escalate…The Pentagon brass who carried out this act of state terrorism knew full well that they were starting a war. They figure that the U.S. overwhelming military might will prevail.”
I then walked down the block to where more people were congregating. As I made my way closer, I could see signs bobbing up and down. Slogans were being chanted as the first wave of cars passing through the intersection honked their horns in support.
I introduced myself to the two women in front who were enthusiastically waving their signs on the corner. One woman, waving a “Lock Him Up” sign said she had been in the military for 25 years and she was mortified by Trump as president. “I had visions of him starting WWIII if he became president,” she told me. The other woman spoke of her experience opposing the Iraq invasion in 2003.
A young couple was standing nearby with their signs to “end endless wars.” They were Bernie supporters and were new to protesting against war, having attended other protests against immigration policy earlier in the Trump presidency. They told me they liked Bernie’s unequivocal denunciation of the assassination. When I asked them what they thought of Tulsi’s antiwar stance they said they didn’t really know much about her.
At one point I spotted a couple who appeared to be Muslims as the woman had the traditional scarf on. I wondered if maybe they had family from the Middle East and wanted to get their perspective. When I tried to ask them about what brought them out to the protest, however, they were reticent to open up, so I moved along.
Another young couple was talking to a young woman they’d met at the protest when I approached. They also were Bernie supporters but said that Tulsi was their second choice, citing concerns about Tulsi only seeming to oppose wars that would involve regime change but not necessarily opposing the bombing of perceived terrorists. They weren’t happy with most of the other Democratic candidates’ responses to the assassination and said they didn’t really pay attention to the corporate media anymore, relying instead on alternative outlets like the Empire Files and the Gray Zone. They had recently participated in protests involving climate change and racism.
The young lady they were talking to said she had majored in Middle East studies in college and said, “I’m sick of wars based on lies.” She considered herself an anti-imperialist.
Another couple, probably in their 30’s, was out with their toddler in a stroller and a friend. The woman told me that this seemed like “the time to get up off the couch and act.” The man, originally from New York, had past experience as an organizer and spoke to me at length about how we didn’t have a real antiwar movement right now in this country but how it was badly needed. He described the U.S. as an imperial power that had not respected other nations’ sovereignty for years, with the political class assuming that they’d never have to bear the costs of their reckless decisions.
He also considered the mainstream media to be jingoistic and consistently remiss in doing their job when it comes to war and peace issues. While he lamented the lack of an antiwar movement, he did express some hope that one could emerge due to the technological capability of the internet and social media, which had enabled major scale-ups very quickly on other issues like the climate. However, he also emphasized that major work would have to be done to build up the movement locally in various places in order to actually effect change – such as sustained direct actions – as opposed to just mobilizing rallies.
I spoke to an older couple who said they’d been involved in antiwar protesting since the 1980’s. They also were Bernie supporters, stating that he’d been consistent in his opposition to war and the defense budgets that enable the war machine. The woman said she appreciated Tulsi speaking out against war but that she had other concerns about her as a candidate. They expressed distrust of the corporate media and said they followed some alternative media like Truthdig. The man was a fan of Chris Hedges’ writing, stating that the provocation this past week was another escalation in a long line of militarist policies by the U.S. in which many “corporations and the military-industrial-complex profit from war.”
Mass rally in Times Square, New York:
Mass rally in Los Angeles, CA: