SAN JOSE — Hundreds of Bay Area residents gathered in front of San Jose City Hall on Saturday to protest escalating tensions with Iran set off by the assassination on Friday of General Qassem Soleimani, one of the Middle Eastern county’s most powerful figures.
A mix of college students, self-proclaimed “raging grannies,” Chicano Brown Berets and more held up anti-war signs and waved at honking motorists starting around 3 p.m.
Speakers criticized the United States for its involvement in the Middle East, as well as for recent actions that have moved it closer to a violent confrontation with Iran. The grannies sang a song calling for “no war with Iran.”
Omeed Askary, a San Jose native and student at the University of California, Berkeley, said he hoped people who saw the protest would get motivated to learn more about why Iran and the U.S. have been locked in a decades-long cold war. The threat of war, he said, hit particularly close to home.
“As a dual citizen, it’s really difficult for me to see the two countries I really love go to war,” Askary said.
He pointed at the broad group of attendees and said that a pro-peace message could transcend political ideologies.
“As long as you’re against war,” he said, “you’re welcome in the effort to prevent conflict.”
Nilou Nouri, of Saratoga, said she’s been coming to anti-war protest for 30 years, opposing American involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and more. She came out on Saturday because seeing hundreds of people protesting for peace was the only thing that still gave her hope.
“If I just stay at home and watch the news I get very depressed,” she said.
Among her concerns are her friends and family members in Iran, who she visits every few years. She said they live under an oppressive regime but that none of them see war or military intervention from the US as the solution.
“Diplomacy works,” she said. “I think we need to give diplomacy a chance.”
Nouri, along with other attendees, said they saw the escalating tensions as an effort by President Donald Trump to improve his odds of re-election and distract from several scandals, including an ongoing impeachment effort.
Many speakers and attendees also said the latest protest — and military provocations — are part of a long line of American aggression abroad.
“We have to stop meeting like this,” Anne Rosenzeig, a Berkeley native who now lives in Morgan Hill, told one friend. “We’ve been doing this for 50 years now.”