Angered by nearly two decades of US military action in the Middle East, hundreds of demonstrators marched through downtown Boston Saturday to demand American officials avoid war with Iran and called on them to withdraw troops from the region.
Demonstrators marched shoulder to shoulder for more than an hour, some carrying flags representing Veterans for Peace, while others held signs that read “No War With Iran” and “Money for Jobs & Education Not War & Occupation.”
The demonstration was one of about 70 across the nation Saturday, organized following Thursday’s killing of Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian military leader who oversaw efforts to destabilize the region, in a US drone strike in Iraq. US officials have said Soleimani had been responsible for the deaths of more than 600 Americans, and was planning future attacks.
Iran has threatened revenge for the strike, and the administration has said the United States will sending nearly 3,000 additional American troops to the Middle East, while thousands more are already in Iraq to train local forces. That escalation would be a break from Trump’s campaign promise to reduce American presence in the Middle East.
“We are trying to bring everyone’s attention to this issue,” said Cole Harrison, the executive director of Massachusetts Peace Action, one of the groups that organized the Boston protest. “We are at the brink of war due to Trump’s folly.”
The president defended the assassination of Soleimani on Twitter Friday, writing that the Iranian general “should have been taken out many years ago!”
Demonstrators listened to speakers for about an hour Saturday afternoon before marching from the Park Street MBTA station along Tremont, Boylston, and Washington streets. As they walked for another hour, they chanted, their voices echoing off the sides of nearby buildings.
“Stop the bombings, stop the war,” they cried at one point, “bring the troops home now!”
Among the speakers at the rally was Paul Shannon, a board member with Massachusetts Peace Action, who told the crowd that they must work to build support for antiwar efforts.
“We are dealing with a cabal of gangsters that presently run our country, nothing less,” Shannon said. “We have to reach out to millions of people in this country to organize opposition to this onrushing war.”
Mojgan Haji, a volunteer with the National Iranian American Council, told reporters that Soleimani’s death has galvanized Iran’s various political factions against the United States, and compared the current situation with Iran to a “house on fire.”
Haji is an American citizen who is from Iran and has family there. She said she worried that war would mean the deaths in both countries, and people of Iranian heritage would face discrimination if the United States goes to war.
“If we go full-out war, what do you think happens to us? We’re going to be demonized . . . I’m frankly terrified at this point,” Haji said.
Another demonstrator with Iranian roots was Sabah Nobakhti, 32, a professor at Bunker Hill Community College. Now a permanent US resident, Nobakhti also has family in Iran.
“I know there is an influence from people, so when a lot of people oppose the war, hopefully it will influence the decision making process in Washington D.C. or Congress,” Nobakhti said. “This is the least we can do.”
Michelle Rediker, 51, of Brighton held a sign that read, “No War.”
“War with Iran would be more about defending Trump’s fragile ego than it would be about peace, or anything that would benefit the planet,” Rediker said. “It won’t be his family members that are going to fight a war.”
Others looked back to the price paid by those who fought in earlier wars.
Betty Case, 82, of Boston said she remembered when her cousins were drafted during World War II. Case said she opposes war and was very upset by news of Soleimani’s killing.
“I think diplomacy is better than war, and that war does not achieve peace,” Case said. “I hope people will contact their legislators and let them know we do not want to go to war with Iran or anyone.”
Along with opposition to a potential war with Iran, protesters also demanded American troops still fighting Iraq and Afghanistan be brought home.
Megan Krieger, 19, of Jamaica Plain, held a sign that emphasized just how long the nation’s military has been fighting in the region. It read: “I was 3 when my country went to war with Iraq.”
“We grew up during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and I don’t think there’s been a time in our entire lives where there hasn’t been us troops on Middle East soil, and that’s horrifying,” Krieger said.
A Gallup poll released in August found widespread opposition to US military action in Iran.
Most Americans — including Republicans and Democrats — supported economic and diplomatic efforts over military action against Iran, according to a survey of 1,558 adults, Gallup said.
The poll found 78 percent of respondents said the United States should rely on economic and diplomatic efforts with Iran, with 18 percent favoring military action, according to Gallup.
But Harrison, of Massachusetts Peace Action, worries that if there is war with Iran, the issue will be one more polarizing issue and become yet another line of division between Republicans and Democrats.
“That’s why it’s so important to stop this cycle of escalation before it goes too far,” Harrison said.