From the left, Rowan Hannigan of Portland, Peter Morgan of Raymond, and David Larsen of Portland stand with dozens of people who showed up for an anti-war rally Saturday at Congress Square Park in Portland. The rally was organized by Peace Action Maine. Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer

More than 60 demonstrators gathered at Congress Square Park in Portland on Saturday to call for peace after the killing of a top Iranian general escalated an ongoing conflict with the United States.

The protesters, many of them veterans, expressed fear that Friday’s U.S. drone strike against Qassem Soleimani, who Pentagon officials claimed was planning attacks on Americans, would lead to war with Iran.

Soleimani led the Quds Force, an elite Iranian unit that has fought across the Middle East. He has been implicated in the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers.

Meanwhile, Iran has promised revenge.

Protesters in Portland laid the blame for escalating tensions at the feet of President Trump.

Lex Jackson of Portland, center in green jacket, was among dozens of people who showed up for the anti-war rally Saturday in Portland. Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

“This guy’s going to burn down the world! ‘Fire and fury!’ ” a man shouted, quoting the president’s previous threat of military action against North Korea.

Peter Morgan, a Coast Guard veteran from Raymond, said the U.S. was falling prey to the same mistakes that led to disaster in Vietnam.

“We haven’t learned any lessons, and we’re back in the Middle East following the same failed strategy,” he said.

Morgan, a member of the international nonprofit group Veterans for Peace, held a white banner with a silhouetted dove with a few other area veterans.

Nearby stood Sally Regan and Mary Luby, members of the antiwar group Women in Black.

Regan and Luby have been standing at the same corner – Congress and High streets – every Friday for years, calling for peace in the world.

On Saturday, they expressed worry about war with Iran, but also encouragement that so many people, many of them young, had come out to oppose violence. Often, Luby said, passers-by question the use of protesting America’s wars on the streets of a liberal city such as Portland.

On a recent night, a man came over to ask, “What do you think you’re going to accomplish by standing out here praying?”

Luby was not, in fact, praying, but she took the question seriously.

“You just have to stand up for what you believe in,” she said.

Demonstrators in dozens of other cities around the U.S. also gathered Saturday to protest the Trump administration’s killing of Soleimani and decision to send thousands of additional soldiers to the Middle East, The Associated Press reported. From Tampa to Philadelphia and San Francisco to New York, protesters carried signs and chanted anti-war slogans.


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