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Protesters gather in downtown Baltimore to greet late-afternoon commuters with a message: ‘No War with Iran’

About 30 people gathered downtown during Thursday's afternoon rush hour at the corner of Light and Pratt streets in McKeldin Park to protest a potential war with Iran. Jan. 9, 2020
About 30 people gathered downtown during Thursday's afternoon rush hour at the corner of Light and Pratt streets in McKeldin Park to protest a potential war with Iran. Jan. 9, 2020 (McKenna Oxenden/Baltimore Sun)

About 30 people gathered Thursday during afternoon rush hour to protest the rising tensions between the United States and Iran after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani.

The cry for peace came less than a day after the two countries stepped back from the brink of possible war on Wednesday as Trump signaled he would not retaliate militarily for Iran’s missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. No one was harmed in the strikes, but U.S. forces in the region remained on high alert.

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Grassroots activism organizations such as About Face: Veterans Against the War, Indivisible, MoveOn, the National Iranian American Council and Win Without War organized the gathering at McKeldin Square. Motorists honked as they drove through the Light and Pratt streets intersection while protesters chanted “Peace with Iran” and “No War” while holding various signs.

Beth Kurtz, 60, of Bolton Hill said she felt empowered standing with other people who were supporting the same cause of protesting against a potential war with Iran. She came out because she felt like her voice needed to be heard. Jan. 9, 2020
Beth Kurtz, 60, of Bolton Hill said she felt empowered standing with other people who were supporting the same cause of protesting against a potential war with Iran. She came out because she felt like her voice needed to be heard. Jan. 9, 2020 (McKenna Oxenden/Baltimore Sun)

Helia, a 29-year-old Johns Hopkins University graduate student, said she came out to show support for her Iran, her home country. The current Baltimore resident holds dual citizenship in the United States and Iran. She declined to provide her full name out of fear for her safety and family still in Iran.

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Growing up in Iran, Helia said, she heard stories about the war and how it affected her country and family. She said that though she never experienced it herself, the stories were enough.

“I’m not supporting the war,” Helia said. “It’s always ordinary people getting hurt and I don’t support that. I don’t want it to happen here or anywhere else.”

Trump, speaking from the White House on Wednesday, seemed intent on deescalating the crisis.

About 30 people gathered downtown during Thursday's afternoon rush hour at the corner of Light and Pratt streets in McKeldin Park to protest a potential war with Iran. Jan. 9, 2020
About 30 people gathered downtown during Thursday's afternoon rush hour at the corner of Light and Pratt streets in McKeldin Park to protest a potential war with Iran. Jan. 9, 2020 (McKenna Oxenden/Baltimore Sun)

“Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world," Trump said.

Despite Trump’s comments, Beth Kurtz said she is “very concerned” with how quickly things could potentially escalate. The Bolton Hill resident pointed toward the fact that Trump did not consult with congressional leaders ahead of the deadly attack. Instead, he sent Congress a notification afterward explaining his rationale, but kept it classified.

Kurtz, 60, said participating in Thursday’s event brought her comfort and made her feel empowered to stand up with other people who were supporting the cause.

“There is no effort to get congressional input into our war aggression and it worries me where this is going to lead if it’s not in check,” Kurtz said. “It’s time for us to stand up and have our voices heard.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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