“We as Americans need to wake up”: Anti-war protesters rally in Long Beach following US-Iran aggression

Anti-war protesters rallied in Downtown Long Beach on Sunday in response to the U.S. killing of a top Iranian military official in Baghdad, Iraq earlier in the week.

The event was held at Harvey Milk Promenade Park and mostly peaceful with the exception of a few hecklers driving by and shouting support for President Donald Trump.

It was one of multiple being held across the nation over the weekend by various activist groups. Local efforts were organized by the Long Beach chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, the Long Beach Anarchist Collective and the People’s Revolutionary Party of Long Beach.

“As a coalition of anti-imperialist, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist Long Beach residents, we are coming together to: denounce the actions of the U.S. military in Iraq and Iran, call for a unilateral cease of aggression and the removal of U.S. troops from the region, and cease the sanctions on Iran which disproportionately affect those people who are already without resources,” organizers said in a statement.

Anti-war protesters rally at Harvey Milk Promenade Park in Downtown Long Beach on Sunday, January 5, 2019. The rally was part of a rally denouncing the U.S.’s involvement in Iraq and Iran following a U.S. airstrike that killed an Iranian military official Jan. 3. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

At the rally, Middle Eastern activists and educators reminded the dozens of people in attendance that the incident was just the latest in a decades-long conflict that is still without resolution.

“I’ve never known a homeland not in destruction every single day,” said 29-year-old Iraqi activist Zeena Aljawed, who co-founded the Southwest Asian & North Afrikan chapter in Los Angeles.

“We are processing a lot of different emotions,” said fellow SWANA-LA member Hamoun Dolatshahi.

The 26-year-old Torrance resident and Kurdish Iranian refugee said while the Iranian official killed by the U.S. had “blood on his hands,” American invasion has also led to the death of civilians whose stories and names are never known.

“We’re not human, we’re just numbers,” Dolatshahi said.

Anti-war protesters rally at Harvey Milk Promenade Park in Downtown Long Beach on Sunday, January 5, 2019. The rally was part of a rally denouncing the U.S.’s involvement in Iraq and Iran following a U.S. airstrike that killed an Iranian military official Jan. 3. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

Yousef Baker, a professor of international studies at Cal State Long Beach, said that President Donald Trump was no different than previous administrations–Democratic and Republican–and called him the latest “personification of an American policy agenda in the region which has been creating a system of chaos by destabilizing the region year after year, decade after decade.”

Baker criticized U.S. policies that both justify and increase military power and economic gain, which is a notion known as the military-industrial complex. On Friday, multiple news outlets reported that defense-sector stocks rose on Wall Street following the attack.

Baker said that Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed at an Iraqi airport during a U.S. Pentagon-launched air raid OK’d by Trump, was on his way to relay a message to the Iraqi prime minister about a potential de-escalation conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

In the months before, Iraqi revolutionaries were holding uprisings, challenging “the corrupt, inept sectarian government of Iraq and Iraqi elite,” Baker said.

Trump said Soleimani was planning “imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel. Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed to avenge Soleimani’s death.

“We as Americans need to wake up, we need to stop being the sleeping beauty, we need to take responsibility for what this government does,” Baker said. “If we believe that we live in a Democratic society, then hold this government accountable.”

City News Service contributed to this report.

Anti-war protesters march to the Armed Forces Career Center in Downtown Long Beach on Sunday, January 5, 2019. The march was part of a rally denouncing the U.S.’s involvement in Iraq and Iran following a U.S. airstrike that killed an Iranian military official Jan. 3. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

Anti-war protesters march to the Armed Forces Career Center in Downtown Long Beach on Sunday, January 5, 2019. The march was part of a rally denouncing the U.S.’s involvement in Iraq and Iran following a U.S. airstrike that killed an Iranian military official Jan. 3. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

Anti-war protesters march to the Armed Forces Career Center in Downtown Long Beach on Sunday, January 5, 2019. The march was part of a rally denouncing the U.S.’s involvement in Iraq and Iran following a U.S. airstrike that killed an Iranian military official Jan. 3. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

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Stephanie Rivera is the immigration and diversity reporter for the Long Beach Post. Growing up as one of six kids in the working-class immigrant suburb of South Gate, she was taught the importance of civic engagement and to show compassion for others. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015. An avid Harry Potter fan, Stephanie now lives in Bixby Knolls with her boyfriend and their bearded dragon, Austin.
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