More than two dozen advocacy groups pledged their support for the rally, including Veterans for Peace, The Brooklyn Food Coalition, Flatbush for Peace, and the Green Party of NY.
David Tykulsker, a Brooklyn for Peace coordinator, said this is a critical time in the U.S. relationship with Iran, since the decisions made surrounding diplomacy and sanctions could have long-lasting consequences.
“Because there is a split in lead opinion, now is a particularly useful time for popular actions and mobilization,” Tykulsker said. “The good news is the American people don’t want continuity in this, they want the change they voted for.”
Along with Tykulsker, speakers at the event included Berim CEO Sara Haghdoosti and Gibb Surette of the NYC chapter of US Labor Against the War, as well as several colleagues from Brooklyn for Peace.
Irish composer and civil rights activist John Munnelly provided interlude music. All the while, a heckler wearing a Chuck Schumer mask entertained protesters in a bit of satirical street theater, telling passersby between speeches, “Don’t listen to these people, we need every bit of our Pentagon budget.”
In his speech, Surette detailed the scale of the U.S. military budget, pointing out that the the country is responsible for 45 percent of global military spending. He blamed increased military spending for the depletion of resources from domestic needs.
“Money spent on military production dollar-for-dollar creates half the jobs that mass transit or education do, and this is true of private investment just as much as it is of government spending,” Surette said. “It is small wonder that unemployment has spiked to long-term and long-lasting highs.”
Once the speeches were finished, protesters marched from Grand Army Plaza to Congressman Hakeem Jeffries’ office at 55 Hanson Pl., though the representative was not in his office at the time.
During the march, Michael D.D. White explained that he was supporting the rally because he feels a need for change in American budgetary priorities.
“We’re spending far too much of our national economy on the wrong things,” he said. “A large part of that is going to war, and the military-industrial complex, that the public doesn’t want. They want to see other things funded.
“A prime example of what we’re not funding is the library,” he added. “What you get when you’re closing libraries, you get folks who don’t know what is important for them to know, and it turns into a vicious cycle where people are not able to exercise their democracy.”
Tykulsker said that while Jeffries was not in his office at the time of the rally, he and his colleagues are confident that with continued pressure, Jeffries will get their message.
“Congress member Jeffries is on the wrong side, but people who are on the wrong side can be turned around and we have a good example of this recently,” Tykulsker said. “Senator Gillibrand was one of the 59 senators who originally signed the letter directed by Senator Schumer indicating that she wanted more sanctions with Iran. As a result of intense popular pressure, she turned around.”