The actor and activist Jane Fonda and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg protested against the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani and the escalating conflict with Iran at rally in Washington on Saturday.
Fonda, 82, a veteran of Vietnam-era activism who has been skirting arrest at weekly climate change protests close to the White House, joined an ad-hoc coalition of protest groups alarmed by US-Iranian tensions that have escalated since the Trump administration abandoned the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran three years ago.
“The climate movement and the peace movement must be one movement,” Fonda said, describing the US Department of Defense as the biggest institutional user of fossil fuels in the world.
“Young people should know that all of the wars fought since you were born have been about oil,” she said. “It’s always been about oil, and it’s killing people in the Middle East, and oil is killing us here, killing our climate, fires in Australia, we have to stop. We can’t any more lose lives, kill people and ruin the environment because of oil and fossil fuels.”
According to organizers at Code Pink, a group that came to prominence protesting the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, protests against the Suleimani assassination, the decision to send about 3,000 more US troops to the Middle East and the failure to uphold the nuclear accords were scheduled on Saturday in more than 70 cities.
“We believe that the Trump administration’s reckless decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran is at the root of the present crisis,” Code Pink said in a statement.
Other groups planning to join the demonstrations included the anti-war coalition Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (Answer), Democratic Socialists of America, Veterans for Peace and the National Iranian American Council.
“If you take into account that in two days we’ve got 70 protests and thousands of people involved across the country, that’s more significant than anything else the anti-war movement has been able to do in the last decade,” Code Pink organiser Medea Benjamin told the Guardian.
The groups, she said, were not troubled by justifications for Suleimani’s assassination.
“For the activists, it’s not about Suleimani. It’s about the US and the Trump administration pulling out a deal that was working and manufactured crisis by this administration. There’s outrage that Donald Trump said he was going to end these wars and here he is plunging us in the abyss of war with Iran.”
Benjamin continued: “You might hear that Suleimani was a bad guy from the pundits and the politicians, but for the activists that’s not the issue.”
In its call to action, Answer said on its website: “The targeted assassination and murder of a central leader of Iran is designed to initiate a new war. Unless the people of the United States rise up and stop it, this war will engulf the whole region and could quickly turn into a global conflict of unpredictable scope and potentially the gravest consequences.”
The National Iranian American Coalition’s policy director, Ryan Costello, warned that as US-Iranian tensions increase, Iranian Americans will see a “corresponding threat to civil liberties here in the United States”, as they have in the past.
Cities including New York and Los Angeles have announced they are stepping up law enforcement vigilance. New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, said: “We have to recognize that this creates a whole series of dangerous possibilities for our city.”
Fonda has been protesting weekly at the US Capitol about inaction over the climate crisis. The Iran rally is a return to her anti-war roots.
“I’m in my 80s, and I was literally thinking that I could perhaps learn new skills or do something I’d never done before,” Fonda told the Guardian last month. “And when Trump was elected I realised I can’t, you know, it’s back to the barricades.”
Among other well-known Americans to protest the administration’s actions is the actor Rose McGowan.
“Dear #Iran,” McGowan wrote in a Twitter post. “The USA has disrespected your country, your flag, your people.”
She also claimed “52% of us humbly apologize”, though it was unclear what that percentage was in reference to.
“We want peace with your nation,” McGowan wrote. “We are being held hostage by a terrorist regime. We do not know how to escape. Please do not kill us.”
In her final tweet on the topic, she said: “Sometimes it’s OK to freak out on those in power. It’s our right. That is what so many brave soldiers have fought for. That is democracy. I do not want any more American soldiers killed. That’s it.”
Benjamin said she believed that as the US anti-war movement stirs, more well-known people will follow.
“We’ve been in the desert for the last 10 years and now we’re anxious to build up a robust anti-war organisation again,” she said.