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Sunday, August 01, 2021

Gainesville, UF react to death of top Iranian general in strike

<p>Robert Sammel, 49, waves an American fl ag Saturday afternoon during the No War with Iran protest along Northwest 16th Boulevard. About 50 people attended the event, and organizers said it was held to spread awareness for the danger of military escalation in Iran following an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.</p>

Robert Sammel, 49, waves an American fl ag Saturday afternoon during the No War with Iran protest along Northwest 16th Boulevard. About 50 people attended the event, and organizers said it was held to spread awareness for the danger of military escalation in Iran following an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

An American airstrike killed one of Iran’s top military leaders, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, on Friday. The strike followed a week of rapid-fire attacks and counterstrikes between the U.S. and Iranian governments and has left the fate of the nations in question. Iran promised to retaliate.

In response, about 50 Alachua County residents advocated for peace at the intersection of Northwest 16th Boulevard and Northwest 43rd Street on Saturday afternoon. Members of the local Veterans for Peace chapter held signs denouncing the war and encouraging onlookers to vote in upcoming elections. Some drivers honked their support while others jeered at the demonstrators. This echoed similar protests throughout the country.

Paul Ortiz, a 55-year-old UF history professor and member of Veterans for Peace, said he believes Soleimani’s assassination has unified people in Iran against the U.S. government.

Ortiz is a third-generation veteran. He said the leaders who orchestrate war do so without consequence, and while they can talk about war, they are not the ones who have to fight it.

“It’s my family and other working-class families who do,” he said. “We’re the people who have to fight in the war.”

U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi wrote in a press release that Trump had carried out the strike without authorization from Congress.

Matthew Barocas, a 20-year-old UF political science junior and the UF College Democrats president, said this sets a bad precedent for partisanship with national security.

Barocas said he is glad Soleimani is dead, but he fears the backlash that will follow and that foreign allies will view the U.S. as an irrational actor. Overseas diplomats may fall victim to a retaliatory attack by Iran, he said.

“I’m not sure what we can do besides hunker down,” he said.

Jarrod Rodriguez, a 20-year-old UF political science junior and UF College Republicans treasurer, thinks differently. Swift, decisive action is how adversaries should be dealt with, he said.

He said the strike sends a message: Trump is not going to take attacks sitting down.

“Iran wouldn’t dare to declare war on us,” he said. “We would easily destroy them.”

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Farad Packdel, a 42-year-old UF alumnus, has children in America and parents in Iran. He said he hopes politicians will de-escalate the situation for the sake of American and Iranian citizens.

“Send your daughters to war if you really believe in this,” Packdel said. “Not ours.”

Contact Hannah Phillips at hphillips@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter at @haphillips96. 

Robert Sammel, 49, waves an American fl ag Saturday afternoon during the No War with Iran protest along Northwest 16th Boulevard. About 50 people attended the event, and organizers said it was held to spread awareness for the danger of military escalation in Iran following an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

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