Nearly three hundred student and local protesters gathered in Hinds Plaza on Saturday, Jan. 11, for a “No War with Iran” rally.
The rally was sponsored by the Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA) and the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, both Princeton-based organizations, as well as Muslims for Peace. It featured a variety of speakers that included University-affiliated physicist Zia Mian, N.J. Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, and Montgomery Township Mayor Sadaf Jaffer.
“We know that diplomacy works,” said CPFA Executive Director Reverend Robert Moore, as the crowd cheered and applauded. “We know it works with Iran. And it’s time to have it happen again. Diplomacy, not war with Iran!”
Anti-war rallies took place across the country on Jan. 8, organized by the civic action group MoveOn.org in response to concerns of escalating conflict between Iran and the United States after the assassination of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani. The rallies were organized at over 370 sites, including New York City; Chicago, IL; and Los Angeles, CA.
At the Princeton rally, speakers described the current political situation and argued against American military action. Rallygoers bore signs saying “Diplomacy Not War,” “Remove Trump,” “Hands Off the Middle East,” and “Prevent WWIII,” among others.
Mian, director of the University’s Program on Science and Global Security, spoke at length about the importance of American diplomacy and peace in the Middle East.
“The United States has to learn to treat other people and other countries as equals,” Mian said. “We think we can have it all, and the answer is ... we can have what we want, but the price that is to be paid is beyond measure, and it will come back to haunt us.”
Zwicker, N.J. Assemblyman of the 16th legislative district, also a physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, gave an impassioned defense of democracy as a peaceful force for change.
“Our weapon today is our voices,” Zwicker said. “Our weapon tomorrow is our vote.”
Mayor Jaffer spoke at the rally in place of Princeton Township Mayor Liz Lempert, who was unable to attend. Jaffer recited a poem titled “Farewell” by Kashmiri-American author Agha Shahid Ali.
Pastor Lukata A. Mjumbe of the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church demanded that all faith leaders in the area advocate a continuous message of peace.
“You cannot pray and teach about peace on Friday and [not] stand up and fight for peace on Saturday!” Mjumbe said. “You cannot preach about peace on only Sunday morning, but on Monday through Friday endorse the weapons of war and violence and ... not lift up your voice in defence of our children!”
The pastor made a direct appeal to the U.S. government, arguing that the avoidance of all-out war and other atrocities — actions that he states are “morally unacceptable right from the very beginning” — does not warrant “celebration” and called for a higher standard of conduct from military operatives.
“It’s never acceptable for you to assassinate anyone,” Mjumbe said, to general applause.
Throughout the rally, vocalist Sharleen Leahy performed original anti-war songs and a few covers, such as the 1965 protest song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” by social activist and folk singer Pete Seeger.
Several students were also present at the rally, including one first year member of the Princeton Young Democratic Socialists who spoke to The Daily Princetonian.
“I certainly liked what I heard, and I’m glad that we have people who are ready to criticize not only the Republicans for warmongering, but also just the whole system in general,” they said.
Other speakers in attendance were Irene Etkin Goldman from the Coalition for Peace Action, U.S. and U.K. veteran fighter pilot Richard Moody, Democratic Party Vice Chairman Ali Mirza of Long Island’s Nassau County, Chief Activist Robt Seda-Schreiber of the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, and former UN official Salim Lone.