Demonstrators Rally in Cities Across the Bay Area Against War With Iran

A demonstrator waits for a critical mass to form in the early evening on Thursday, Jan. 9 in downtown San Francisco, at the beginning of a rally against U.S. military involvement in Iran. (Michelle Wiley/KQED)

From Fairfield to Pacifica, anti-war activists took to the streets in at least 16 cities across the Bay Area on Thursday evening, as part of nationwide demonstrations against military conflict with Iran.

Organized by a coalition of progressive groups — including Win Without War, MoveOn, Indivisible, Vets About Face and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) — the more than 60 planned rallies across the country come a week after a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and days since Iran retaliated with missile strikes on U.S. bases in Iraq.

"In the wake of the Trump administration's reckless assassination of Iranian General Soleimani, and threats to escalate conflict, activists carrying a 'no war' message will urge restraint and that the United States avoid yet another unnecessary, costly war of choice in the Middle East," organizers said in a statement.

The momentum of the mobilization, however, appeared to slow considerably following President Trump's address Wednesday, in which he called for more economic sanctions on Iran but no further military action.

By early Thursday evening, as many as 300 protesters had gathered near Montgomery BART Station in downtown San Francisco for just over an hour, carrying signs and chanting “no war,” while speakers addressed the crowd.

"This is dangerous, it's extremely dangerous. And it's not just Americans that are at risk, it's the world. It's the people in Iran, it's the people in Iraq," said Susan Binder, a teacher at El Cerrito High School who joined the San Francisco protest. “I'm a high school teacher, I don't want to see my young students killed in another war.”

In Oakland, a few hundred protesters congregated in front of the Grand Lake Theater for a festive demonstration that included a brass band and singing.

“What's happening right now can only jeopardize many, many lives,” said Iranian-American Negeene Mosaed, a Berkeley resident.

Mosaed recalled participating in protests against the Gulf War in 1991 as a college student.

“I actually remember visiting Iran during the end of the Iran-Iraq war and experiencing many, many Scud missiles,” she said. “A feeling of possibly dying any minute is just nothing that you can ever imagine. And it's it's nothing that anyone should live through.”

Shraddha Sopar, a middle school teacher from Oakland, said she has been discussing the threat of war with Iran in her classes.

“It definitely feels like history is repeating itself. And talking to my students about it and teaching my students about it is really powerful,” Sopar said. “It is important that we not become completely normalized to war.”

A sparsely attended rally outside Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park drew some 25 participants protesting a range of issues, from war with Iran to unchecked political disinformation.

"It's a terrible, impulsive decision, just like everything else he does," said retired math professor and track and field coach Ed Packel of Trump's threat to attack Iran. "I think it's also in reaction to the impeachment."

Thursday's demonstrations follow actions that took place across the country last Saturday, including a march in San Francisco that drew hundreds of protesters.

KQED's Michelle Wiley, Rachael Myrow and Sara Hossaini contributed to this report.

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