International & Antiwar News

THREAT OF WAR ON IRAN SPARKS PROTESTS, NEW COALITIONS ACROSS VIRGINIA

Originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender, printed February 17. Reproduced here in for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in this issue or download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

Staff Report

On Jan. 3, a U.S. drone strike near Baghdad International Airport ordered by President Donald Trump targeted and killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Soleimani was commander of the elite Quds Force and was considered the second most powerful person in Iran next to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Gen. Soleimani reportedly was in Iraq to bring the government a proposal to reduce tensions with U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia.

The reaction across the world was immediate. Protests broke out in many countries, especially in Iraq and Iran. The world held its breath to see how Iran would react, and if the confrontation would escalate into all-out war. Antiwar organizations called for a Global Day of Action on Jan. 25 to demand “No War on Iran!” Activists responded in more than 200 U.S. cities and in 20 other countries.

Left: Dozens of mostly young people take to the streets in Richmond as part of a “Global Day of Action: No War on Iran!” Photo by Phil Wilayto. Right: Activists in downtown Norfolk hold lightboards spelling out “#NO WAR” and “PEACE.” Photo courtesy

Here in Virginia, protests were held in Blacksburg, Harrisonburg, Norfolk and Richmond. Members of the Plowshare Peace Center in Roanoke travelled to Washington, D.C., to join a regional march and rally. At the Defenders’ suggestion, solidarity greetings were exchanged among the organizers and read at the protests.

In Richmond, more than 50 people turned out to demand “No War on Iran,” “Stop the Endless Wars” and “Money for Jobs, Education & People’s Needs, not War!” Starting with a rally outside the federal courthouse on East Broad Street, the overwhelmingly young crowd marched a mile to Monroe Park, a traditional site of protests, where an open-mic Speak-Out was held.

The Richmond action was organized by local chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America, Food Not Bombs and the Industrial Workers of the World and the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality.

Earlier in the month, Food Not Bombs held a march of about 50 people near the State Capitol. Another action was held by unaffiliated activists on Jan. 11.

In Norfolk, a heavily militarized area and home to the largest Naval base in the world, protesters gathered at Town Point Park and marched through downtown. That action was called by Disrupt The Elite Virginia, Mothers Out Front Hampton Roads, Tidewater DSA, Tidewater Food Not Bombs and the Tidewater Solidarity Collective.

In both cities, organizers decided to form new coalitions to continue antiwar work in their areas.

The Richmond Coalition for Peace, Justice, and Jobs, which includes the four groups that protested on Jan. 25, is based on five principles: opposition to all U.S. wars and interventions; respect for the right of self-determination for oppressed peoples; drawing the connections between international and domestic issues; a democratic decision-making process; and political independence from both the Democratic and Republican parties.

The coalition is now developing its leadership and decision-making structure and is planning to hold a public forum on antiwar and domestic issues in late March.

In Norfolk, the Hampton Roads Peace & Planet Coalition includes the Hampton Roads Green Party, Norfolk Catholic Worker, Tidewater DSA and Young DSA at Old Dominion University.

That coalition’s unifying principles are similar to those of Richmond’s: opposition to all U.S. wars and interventions; respect for the right to self-determination of oppressed peoples; and political independence from “parties of war and fossil fuels.” The Hampton Roads coalition has a specific position opposing “environmental destruction” and endorses a strategy of “nonviolent opposition.”

The Virginia coalitions and antiwar organizations can be reached through their pages on Facebook:

Richmond Coalition for Peace, Justice, and Jobs

Hampton Roads Peace & Planet Coalition

Plowshare Peace Center

Shenandoah Valley Antiwar Coalition

Blacksburg: (This action was organized by individuals; we have not yet received permission to publicize their names.)

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