Protesters gathered in downtown Los Angeles Saturday, joining others across the country demonstrating after the killing of a top Iranian general in a U.S. airstrike that has intensified tensions with Iran and heightened fears of a war as Iranians vowed “harsh” retaliation.
Hundreds of anti-war demonstrators at Pershing Square called for the U.S. to withdraw troops from Iraq and stop sanctions on Iran.
There were protests planned in more than 70 U.S. cities Saturday, organized by the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition, with demonstrators chanting anti-war slogans and carrying signs reading, “no war or sanctions on Iran!”
The killing of Qassem Soleimani escalated the standoff between Iran and the U.S., with the State Department urging all U.S. citizens to leave Iraq immediately and to stay away from the embassy in Baghdad. Meanwhile, thousands of U.S. Army troops were deployed to the region.
President Donald Trump said he authorized the strike because Soleimani was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on Americans.
“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Trump said at a news conference Friday.
Not all Angelenos opposed the Trump administration’s military action in Iraq.
Iranian Americans converged at the federal building in Westwood to praise the airstrike and celebrate Soleimani’s killing. They stomped on pictures of Soleimani and held up signs saying “rot in hell.”
“The world is a safer place without him,” said Mitra Samani, who told KTLA she was a political prisoner in Iran for five years.
Though many Democratic leaders have described Soleimani as a “murderer” responsible for the deaths of Americans, they said the airstrike was reckless and warned of the repercussions.
On Saturday, rockets fell inside or near the Green Zone in Iraq, which houses government offices, the U.S. Embassy and other foreign embassies.
In California, the escalation put local law enforcement agencies on alert.
The Los Angeles Police Department said Thursday that while there’s no credible threat to Los Angeles, it will be “monitoring events.”
“We will continue to communicate with state, local, federal and international law enforcement partners regarding any significant intel that may develop,” the department said.
Police asked residents to “say something if you see something” and said that the department is “committed to ensuring the safety of our vibrant and diverse community.”
Fears of Iranian retaliation had a ripple effect globally, with prices of crude oil in the U.S. surging 3.6%, or $2.18, to $63.36. a barrel Friday.
This Department is committed to ensuring the safety of our vibrant and diverse community, and we ask every Angeleno to say something if you see something.
— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) January 3, 2020
The Associated Press contributed to this report.