DeKALB – It was Krista Hoercherl’s first time at a rally, standing in Memorial Park at the corner of First Street and Lincoln Highway on Thursday with her sister, who said they were protesting rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
“We just want to let the people in power politically in DeKalb, in Illinois, in the nation know that we don’t support the recent current events,” Hoercherl, 24, a graduate student at Northern Illinois University from Sycamore said.
She was joined by her sister, Carly Hoercherl, 26, a preschool teacher from Sycamore, and about 60 other people participating in a #NoWarWithIran rally, part of similar demonstrations throughout the country Thursday night.
The rallies were organized by local residents along with moveon.org as tensions between the U.S. and Iran escalate after the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on
Carly Hoercherl said she thinks it’s important for local communities, no matter the size, to have a voice in national politics.
“Get out and speak your mind,” Carly Hoercherl said. “If rallying in public isn’t your thing, show your support in a different way. We are rallying for peace for our nation.”
The rally was largely peaceful, as dozens of residents braved the chilly winter winds, and cheered when passing cars honked in support. Demonstrators held signs with phrases such as “No war with Iran,” and “Hate does not make America great.” Some gathered together to sing songs such as the hymn “Let There Be Peace.”
Some Democratic candidates running for office joined in the anti-war rally, including Paul Stoddard, who’s hoping to unseat state Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, in the 70th district, and Dani Brzozowski, of La Salle, who’s vying for a seat in the Illinois 16th Congressional District, which is held by U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon.
Not all gathered were protesting ongoing conflict in the Middle East, however. Three counter-protesters gathered at the opposite corner of the intersection, and shouted across the street that “they attacked us first.”
Jeff Heines, 34, of Sycamore, held a sign that said “Let’s defend the U.S.A.” and said he was gathered because Iranians attacked the U.S. first.
“We are simply defending our united nation and that is where it should be,” Heines said. “The United States of America is not trying to start a war, we are trying to prevent a war.”
Justin Mishler, 27, of Belvidere, president of the NIU Veterans Association, member of Legion Post 66 and a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, stood with Heines, and said it was “a little pathetic,” that people opposed war with Iran.
“Besides the fact that they attacked the embassy last week and shot down a passenger plan a couple nights ago,” Mischler said, referencing a Ukranian passenger plane carrying
176 people that was shot down Wednesday.
Heines got into a brief shouting match with another veteran, who strolled toward Memorial Park to join the anti-war protesters chanting “Veterans for peace.”
“The best way to thank someone for their service is to ensure they never have to serve again,” said Cameron Halas, who is the president of the DeKalb-Sycamore chapter of the national organization Veterans for Peace.
Halas said he served in the Army for five years and was deployed in Iraq, where he said he realized war wasn’t what he was told it was. He said the U.S. is making enemies that “don’t exist.”
“I realized in Iraq what my true service should be,” Halas said. “What I gained from the military is that it’s the way we have each other’s back, and that’s what this country doesn’t have. It’s our lives that are on the line. Do we really want to get shot at unless it’s absolutely necessary?”