Thousands of antiwar protesters gathered in communities across the country on Saturday to condemn the American drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander.
In cities and towns across the United States, more than 80 demonstrations were planned to oppose the killing of the commander, Qassem Soleimani, and the Trump administration’s decision to send thousands more troops to the Middle East.
The protests were spearheaded by Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, an antiwar coalition, and Code Pink, a women-led antiwar organization.
“Unless the people of the United States rise up and stop it, this war will engulf the whole region and could quickly turn into a global conflict of unpredictable scope and potentially the gravest consequences,” the coalition said in a statement.
More than 1,000 demonstrators in Washington gathered outside the White House, carrying “No War” signs, Brian Becker, national director of the coalition, said. Others marched in New York City in Times Square, repeatedly chanting “U.S. out of the Middle East.” Crowds also assembled in Albuquerque, Indianapolis, Memphis, Miami and St. Louis.
In Philadelphia, demonstrators outside City Hall carried signs demanding that the United States stay out of Iraq and avoid war with Iran. In San Francisco, an antiwar rally included chanting, singing and speakers. In downtown Chicago, hundreds of demonstrators stood outside Trump Tower, some with signs that read “Stop bombing Iraq.”
The two groups began calling for nationwide protests on Tuesday, ahead of the drone strike that killed General Suleimani but as tensions were escalating between the United States and Iraq, Mr. Becker said.
Protests were initially planned in 10 to 15 cities and the number grew to 30 by Thursday. When the general was killed near the Baghdad airport early on Friday, the number of participating cities more than doubled, Mr. Becker said.
As of Saturday afternoon, more than 80 protests were organized, Madea Benjamin, a director of Code Pink, said.
She said she hadn’t seen numbers like this since 2003.
“One thing that’s very different this time is that more young people and people of color came out to protest,” Ms. Benjamin said.
Ms. Benjamin said the surge of protesters reflected a momentum and energy that she hoped would be seen and heard by lawmakers.
The drone attack drastically ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran, causing online interest in military conscription and “World War III” to surge on Friday.
“It felt like this in September 2002 when we were putting out calls to organize,” Mr. Becker said. “There was the same sense of alarm. This is extremely reminiscent of the months before the Iraq invasion.”