A few minutes after news broke that Iran had launched drones and missiles heading toward Israel, the crowd started chanting “Hands off Iran!”

American Anti-War Activists Cheer for Iran’s War

At a left-wing conference in Chicago, activists believe Iran is ‘part of the arc of resistance because the enemies are Israel and the USA.’

CHICAGO — About 300 anti-war activists crowded into the basement of the Teamsters Union’s headquarters on Saturday to hear organizers from all over the country describe their plans to disrupt the Democratic National Convention this August. Joe Biden’s backing of Israel since Hamas’s October 7 attack has turned these left-wing radicals against their own party.

“It’s really inspiring to see that people are just as enthusiastic, and maybe even more enthusiastic, to march on the DNC as they are to march on the RNC,” says Omar Flores, a Milwaukee-based activist. “We can thank Genocide Joe and our movement for that.”  

But then a man stumbles to the podium, wiping sweat from his forehead. He grabs the microphone to announce that the Islamic regime of Iran has launched missiles and drones heading straight toward Israel.

“They believe that they will be in Palestinian—I don’t call it Israeli—airspace between two and four a.m., which means about two to four hours from now,” he says. “In addition, there are reports of drones having been fired on Israel from Yemen and Iraq.”

The crowd, all wearing black N95s, erupts into applause. Someone in the back lowers their mask to send a celebratory whistle soaring throughout the room.  

The man at the podium, Hatem Abudayyeh, heads the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, “a purported community group which, on information and belief, is an affiliate of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a designated terror organization based in Gaza,” according to a lawsuit over the alleged relations between U.S. advocacy groups and Hamas. 

“This is when this country and the world needs us because the United States is going to, quote unquote, defend the criminal Israeli state,” says Abudayyeh, whose home was raided by the FBI in 2010 as part of an investigation “concerning the material support of terrorism.” 

“We have to assume that the United States is going to try to retaliate against Iran.”

After the boos and calls of “shame” subside, Abudayyeh says it is “incumbent” upon Americans to “stop the United States from expanding this war and hitting Iran.”

“We’ve got to be the strong, powerful anti-war movement that we are,” he says, placing the microphone down and exiting the stage. 

The crowd immediately began chanting, “Hands off Iran.”

A woman in a hot pink gas mask, wielding a matching neon cane and dressed in a “Protect Trans Kids” t-shirt, throws her fist in the air. Nearby, a service poodle is taking a nap under the chair of his owner, who is wearing a leather harness over his t-shirt. Then the group that has joined here from cities across America—Seattle, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles—cheers and claps in celebration. 

Joe Iosbaker, an organizer with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, which called October 7 a “good turn of events” in its press release about the terrorist attacks, tells me he supports Iran. His organization has since released a statement backing Iran, where citizens gathered to shout “Death to America” during their nation’s strike against Israel Saturday night.

“We demand hands off Iran,” the statement says. “The people have power, and we will exercise it in the streets.” 

Earlier that day, before news of the attack broke, at a “breakout session” on “the anti-war movement,” Shabbir Rizvi, an organizer with Anti-War Committee Chicago, taught participants how to chant “death to Israel” and “death to America” in Farsi. 

Marg bar Israel,” he chanted, leading a group of about 80 attendees along with him. A man draped in a Soviet flag bearing a gold hammer and sickle clapped his hands. 

A man in a full black denim outfit shouted out behind his N95—“Can we get a ‘marg bar America’?”

“We can get a ‘marg bar America,’ ” Rizvi replied. 

Then Rizvi raised his hand in the air, leading the crowd like a conductor.

Marg bar America,” they cheered. 

On my way out of the event, I ask a woman smoking a cigarette to fill me in on the latest news regarding Iran’s lobbing of missiles and drones, which were later intercepted with help from forces from France, the U.S., and the UK. Iran said its strike was retaliation for Israel’s hit on the Iranian embassy in Syria earlier this month, which destroyed the consulate building next to the embassy and killed two of Tehran’s top commanders, and that the matter is “concluded”—unless Israel hits back.

“Iran is part of the resistance,” said the woman, who flew in that morning from New Orleans, where she’s been part of an effort to disrupt Israel-bound shipments in her hometown. “Yemen and Iran and Hezbollah, who are also a militant group in Lebanon, and the Syrian government are all parts of the arc of resistance.” 

A smile creeps across her face as she tells me: “They’re part of the arc of resistance because the enemies are Israel and the USA.” 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this piece misspelled Omar Flores’s last name as “Florez.” The Free Press regrets the error.

Olivia Reingold is a reporter for The Free Press. To support more of our independent journalism, become a Free Press subscriber today:

Subscribe now

our Comments

Use common sense here: disagree, debate, but don't be a .

the fp logo
comment bg

Welcome to The FP Community!

Our comments are an editorial product for our readers to have smart, thoughtful conversations and debates — the sort we need more of in America today. The sort of debate we love.   

We have standards in our comments section just as we do in our journalism. If you’re being a jerk, we might delete that one. And if you’re being a jerk for a long time, we might remove you from the comments section. 

Common Sense was our original name, so please use some when posting. Here are some guidelines:

  • We have a simple rule for all Free Press staff: act online the way you act in real life. We think that’s a good rule for everyone.
  • We drop an occasional F-bomb ourselves, but try to keep your profanities in check. We’re proud to have Free Press readers of every age, and we want to model good behavior for them. (Hello to Intern Julia!)
  • Speaking of obscenities, don’t hurl them at each other. Harassment, threats, and derogatory comments that derail productive conversation are a hard no.
  • Criticizing and wrestling with what you read here is great. Our rule of thumb is that smart people debate ideas, dumb people debate identity. So keep it classy. 
  • Don’t spam, solicit, or advertise here. Submit your recommendations to if you really think our audience needs to hear about it.
Close Guidelines