Last week at Virginia’s state Capitol, Richmonders joined thousands across the country to protest against the current situation between The United States and Iran.
Despite cold temperatures, a crowd of about 40 stood outside the Virginia State Capitol last Thursday to express their frustration against President Trump and the conflict between the United States and Iran.
The protest was led by Richmond’s chapter of Food Not Bombs, a non-profit organization that creates vegan and vegetarian meals for those in need, focusing locally on Richmond’s homeless population. Arthur Kay, a Food Not Bombs volunteer and one of the leaders of the protest, said Americans need to come together and have their voices heard.
“We need to take care of our problems here at home and not start more problems thousand miles away,” Kay said.
The recent tension between the US and Iran started on Dec. 27 when an American was killed during an attack on an Iraqi base. The United States specifically blamed Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), an anti-US Iraqi militia with backing from Iran (it is unaffiliated with Hezbollah in Lebanon). Two days later, the US responded with airstrikes on five of the KH facilities throughout the Middle East, killing 25 people.
“Iran and their KH proxy forces must cease their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, and respect Iraq’s sovereignty, to prevent additional defensive actions by U.S. forces,” said a statement by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The back and forth of attacks became severe when the US performed a strike near the Baghdad International Airport that killed highly respected Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, as well as KH leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. President Trump, who approved the strike, said on Twitter that Soleimani was “both hated and feared in the country [of Iran].” However, public outcry within Iran after Soleimani’s death appeared to indicate that the general was highly regarded by the country’s people.
The governments and people of Iran and Iraq criticized President Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani, calling the attack, “international terrorism.” Soleimani’s death prompted Iran’s government to take immediate action, ending their commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration, under which Iran agreed not to work toward developing nuclear weapons.
Five days after Soleimani’s death, Iran launched missile strikes on American air bases in Iraq in a retaliatory attack that did not result in any casualties.
While the tension between Iran and the US has died down, protests have flared within Iran due to the Iranian government shooting down an Ukrainian passenger plane at the height of the international tension, killing all 176 people on board.
A recent ABC News poll found that the majority of Americans, 56 percent, disapprove of Trump’s handling of the Iran situation, and that 52 percent felt the strike that killed Suleimani had made them less safe, compared to only 22 percent who felt more safe.
Similarly, many who attended last week’s protest at the Capitol blamed President Trump and The United States for starting and escalating the situation with Iran.
“There’s been a lot of focus on the stuff Trump is doing today, but that stems from a rich history of the United States having our noses where it shouldn’t be,” said Jim, one of the protesters and a volunteer with Food Not Bombs.
Here are some more scenes from the protest at the Capitol last Thursday.
Photos by Christopher Brown. Additional reporting by Marilyn Drew Necci.