A coalition of antiwar protesters, students, and longtime activists gathered at City Hall in Philadelphia on Saturday to voice opposition to a potential U.S. war with Iran.
CodePink, the Party for Socialism and Liberation-Philadelphia, and Local Initiative Local Action (LILAC) were among two dozen or so groups holding a “No War on Iran/U.S. Troops Out of Iraq” rally that started at noon near the ice rink. They later marched south on Broad Street and then west on Walnut shouting, “No blood for oil!" and “U.S. out now!”
The rally of about 250 people came a day after President Donald Trump ordered 750 troops to Iraq after the killing of Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian general, in an airstrike.
“We’re out here as part of a national day of protest,” said Walter Smolarek, organizer for the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and a resident of Kensington. “This is Trump’s war of choice. War is a system, a never-ending drive for profit for both the Democrats and Republicans."
The goal of the rally is to “let the Trump administration, the Democrats and Republicans who have supported and continue to support this occupation, and the Iraqi people fighting bravely for self-determination, that we in the U.S. will fight back against this continued occupation and new escalation.”
The rally was endorsed by more than 20 groups, including students from Temple and Drexel Universities and local organizations such as Black Alliance for Peace and Philly for Real Justice.
The protest received no endorsement by any government or local officials. Area lawmakers in Congress are divided over the White House action against the Iranian military leader.
On Jan. 2, the U.S. military assassinated Soleimani, and “we planned this in response. We’ve been at war in the U.S. almost my entire life,” said Angel Nalubega, a resident of North Philadelphia and a speaker at the rally.
“We don’t need war. We need money for schools that have no heat or air-conditioning. We have the opioid crisis," she said. “My little brother, who’s 13, asked me yesterday if he was going to be drafted.”
Similar protests were planned in Lancaster, State College, and Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, and in roughly 70 cities throughout the country.
Fears of Iranian retaliation rippled across the city, and police said they would step up security at Sunday’s Eagles playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.
The Granny Peace Brigade also made an appearance at the rally, which consisted mostly of young people.
“We organized to protest the war in Iraq in 2003,” said Paula Paul, a member of the group. “This was all because of Trump’s reelection coming up, and we don’t need to send more troops to Iraq."
“It’s very frightening wondering what form Iran’s retaliation will take,” she said, “especially as parents and grandparents.”
Younger protesters called the increased police presence around the city “fearmongering. We’re not affected by this bombing day to day. That is just to sow fear,” said Jay Sharma, organizer with the Philadelphia Liberation Center, and a resident of West Philadelphia.