WASHINGTON, D.C.—Anti-war demonstrators gathered in the nation's capital today to voice their opposition to the Trump administration's recent aggressive actions against Iran, including the Friday drone strike slaying of high-ranking Iranian military official Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, and the deployment of thousands more U.S. troops to the region.
Up to 1,000 demonstrators gathered in Lafayette Park, just outside the White House, to listen to a slate of speakers organized by the left-wing ANSWER Coalition and Code Pink, before marching en masse on Trump International Hotel about a half-mile away.
The two groups had also organized rallies in dozens of cities across the U.S. and Canada.
"We stand against the U.S government and its unilateral bombing of Iraq, and its war of occupation in Iraq," said Sean Blackman, one of several speakers to address the crowd.
Attendees filled the air with chants of "no justice, no peace. U.S. out of the Middle East" while waving anti-war signs provided by ANSWER and the Party of Socialism and Liberation.
"Republicans, Democrats, independents, socialists…don't want another Iraq, don't want another Libya, don't want another Vietnam," said Brian Becker, ANSWER's national director.
It was a message that resonated with Michael Marceau, the D.C. chapter head of Veterans for Peace, who was at the rally.
"This is personal to a lot of us," Marceau, who described himself as a Vietnam veteran, told Reason while holding an upside-down American flag. "I have severe and permanent injuries as a result of my time in the service. Donald Trump has just put a target on any American servicemember in Iraq, Afghanistan, and that part of the world."
"Violence is never going to solve problems, or create long-term stability," said Tori Bateman, another attendee who works with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker anti-war group.
Saturday's rally, she said, offered "a good chance to let other people who aren't aware know that something is happening and they need to wake up and do something about it", adding that it also presented an opportunity to hear perspectives of other organizations opposed to U.S. interventionism abroad.
Indeed, it did. The demonstration was knee-deep in activists railing against racism, police militarization, fossil fuels, and capitalism more generally.
"The climate change movement, and the peace movement must be one movement," said one speaker. "The folks hit hardest [by U.S. wars abroad] are average people, workers, laborers," said another, telling the crowd that "we can build a country without billionaires." This elicited cheers and a shout of "no war but class war." A contingent of protesters from the Democratic Socialists of America unfurled a large banner in the rear of the crowd.
The protest wasn't entirely comprised of left-wing activists. Reason spoke with a handful of self-identified libertarians who'd also come to voice their opposition to government meddling abroad.
"The idea [Soleimani's death] is making Americans safer" is ludicrous said Luca Gattoni-Celli, one such libertarian who'd showed up to the rally with a large Gadsden Flag. "This is life and death. We should be more humble about our ability to change other countries."
(Gattoni-Celli's Gadsden Flag proved controversial with at least one other demonstrator who called it a racist symbol and threatened to tear it down.)
Conspicuously absent from an election year rally organized to protest a Republican president's foreign policy was much sign of Trump's mainstream Democratic opposition.
Several attendees did sport Bernie Sanders paraphernalia, and campaign workers for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) were circulating through the crowd passing out literature. There certainly didn't appear to be many Buttigieg or Biden shirts on display.
There also didn't appear to be many MAGA voters upset at Trump for not sticking to his promise of not embroiling the country in more wars in the Middle East.
That's in contrast to other D.C. rallies targeting Trump's policies, including a 2018 anti-family separation protest Reason covered, where demonstrators appeared to be primarily mainline liberals and progressives.
That they didn't show up for this demonstration is partly a product of it being organized by fringe left-wing groups. Nevertheless, the fact that more mainstream pro-peace rallies haven't been organized suggests Democratic presidential candidates and their supporters—whatever they feel about Trump's foreign policy—are not prioritizing the issue.