ASKIAM Senior Editor http://www.twitter.com/askiaphotojourn
WASHINGTON–President Donald J. Trump’s decision to attack demonstrators at the U.S. embassy in Iraq and then to authorize the assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 3, was met with a fast and furious reaction, protests erupted in 90 cities, with more than 15,000 marchers, even as the long New Year holiday week was ending.
In Washington, 500 people gathered in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, then marched a few blocks to protest in front of the Trump International Hotel.
The ANSWER Coalition and CODEPINK initiated the January 4 Call to Action on Jan. 1. Overnight more than a hundred other endorsements came in for the Call to Action, including Veterans for Peace and the Black Alliance for Peace. Within three days demonstrations took place throughout the country.
Mr. Trump carried out what many, many observers denounced as an act of war against Iran and protestors immediately took to the streets to say “No New War!” The organized resistance was meant to challenge what they call the president’s “lies.”
“The ANSWER Coalition, CODEPINK and others first called for people to come into the streets to protest the bombing of Iraq,” the ANSWER Coalition’s Brian Becker told The Final Call. “Since then, the Trump administration ordered the killing of the top Iranian general, escalating the situation to near war, maybe war with Iran,” said Mr. Becker.
“In those last three days, we’ve gone from demonstrations in two cities to 72 cities, (final count 90 cities) just in this very, very short amount of time that shows that the American people don’t want another war in the Middle East,” Mr. Becker said, moments before the White House rally began.
“The American people don’t agree with Donald Trump and the Pentagon, that the U.S. has the right to go and bomb and kill other people all over the world as if the United States is God. The United States isn’t God. The United States is under the jurisdiction of international law, the UN charter, and it’s violating those laws and thus violating U.S. law,” he continued.
Black participation also quickly coalesced “around the movement itself,” Black Alliance for Peace organizer Netfa Freeman told The Final Call. “The mobilization itself I think is pretty strong, more than it normally has been because I’ve seen not just the presence here, but also organizations putting out statements against the war and around explaining how this war is not even in the best interest of us at all,” he said.
“And the facts fly in the face of claiming (Mr. Trump’s actions) to be in the best interest of Black people in the United States. And so understanding that is juxtaposed to our betterment in terms of housing and justice and all that.
“And, and you know, (war is) a waste of money that should be spent on bettering the lives of Brown, Black, working class people in the United States. And then in addition to the Black Alliance for Peace statement, which I think is really inherent in the sentiment of Black people. Right now, this same militarization and this call for militarization is tantamount to the surge called for by the Trump administration against so-called crime, but really against Black and Brown working class people” in this country Mr. Freeman continued.
Demonstrations took place in Los Angeles; New York; San Francisco, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Philadelphia; Chicago and cities large and small.
“I wanted to be here because I wanted to express to everybody that the climate movement and the peace movement must be one movement,” two-time Academy Award-winning actress Jane Fonda told the D.C. rally. Ms. Fonda spent weekends in Washington during December getting arrested protesting U.S. inaction to address climate change.
“The younger people here should know that all of the wars that have been fought since you’ve been born have been fought over oil,” she continued. “The bombing in New York and here at the Pentagon and elsewhere on 9/11 was about oil, because for decades U.S. troops were stationed in the Middle East to guard oil.
“Troops were stationed on sacred sites, sites that are sacred, holy to the people of that region. Did we not know that? Did we once again not learn the lessons of Vietnam, not bother to understand the people that we were shaming and insulting, not to mention killing, and the environments there that we are destroying and the children that are dying of toxins because of the gassing and all of the things that the U.S. has been doing.
“So please understand the Pentagon is the biggest institutional user of fossil fuel in the world,” Ms. Fonda continued. “We can’t lose lives and kill people and ruin environments anymore because of oil and fossil fuels.
“Brian said that the war in Iraq was started by (President George W.) Bush. No, (it was) started by (Vice President Dick) Cheney and Halliburton. It’s always been about oil. The wars around oil are killing (the people of the region), and the oil is killing us here, killing our climate, causing fires in Australia.
“We have to stop it. This is what democracy looks like! Show me what democracy looks like! Let’s wrest our government out of the stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry and take back our democracy!” Ms. Fonda concluded.
“Well, our country’s in distress and I think it begins with the president in the White House, just across the street from where we are,” Veterans for Peace activist Michael Moscow said in an interview. Mr. Moscow was carrying a U.S. flag hanging upside down, a military sign of distress.
Mr. Trump “had no idea how to be a president and he had no idea how government works. And he’s taking this dangerous path,” he said, recalling that 49 years ago he was serving in Vietnam during that war.
Unlike Mr. Trump who avoided military service when his father reportedly arranged for a doctor to diagnose him with non-existent bone spurs, which medically disqualified Mr. Trump from military service: “I was in the hospital as a result of the injuries in Vietnam. So I kinda have an interest in what’s going on now. No bone spurs. Not at all. I actually have a real Purple Heart,” said Mr. Moscow.
“Any time you can go assassinating these leaders, these Iranian leaders, I don’t care whose country they’re in,” veteran anti-war protestor “Tony” said in an interview. “An international airport? What does that tell you, dude? Man, it’s crazy.”
Tony said he recently heard clips of Mr. Trump “before he became president and he was out screaming that (President Barack) Obama is going to go to war in order to get reelected. Now look who’s trying to get reelected.”
Organizers recognize that even larger mobilizations than this protest in the past have not succeeded in reining in war-mongering administrations, but they feel that this time may be different. “You know, historically, demonstrations always start kind of small in number and then they grow and they grow and they grow,” said Mr. Becker. “And then eventually a movement comes into existence and the movement becomes a factor in the political calculations of policymakers.
“We saw that in the Civil Rights Movement. We saw the Vietnam War movement. We’ve seen it over and over again,” he continued. “What our position (is), what our strategic or tactical orientation is, is to build mass grassroots opposition to the U.S. policy. We think Donald Trump can get up and say, ‘Well, America has to defend itself.’ But when Americans actually think, are we going to send hundreds of thousands of people again and again and again to fight and kill people?
“We don’t know their culture and language. I mean, once the American people really wake up, they become a factor. And that’s our calculation right now,” Mr. Becker said.