Ann Arbor residents held a vigil Thursday night to promote diplomacy with Iran and rally support for the Obama administration’s proposed deal with that country.
Chuck Warpehoski, director of the Interfaith Council of Peace and Justice and the event’s organizer, said the vigil was intended to showcase how Ann Arbor residents feel about the deal.
“Our goal is to let members of Congress know their constituents support this reasonable deal that will help make the world safer for nuclear weapons,” said Warpehoski, who is a Democratic Ann Arbor City Council member from the city’s fifth ward.
About 35 people — mostly Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti residents — attended the event outside the Federal Building on Liberty Street.
The vigil, co-hosted by ICPJ and the Ann Arbor chapter of Veterans for Peace, was part of a national movement to promote diplomacy through supporting the president’s nuclear deal with Iran, called “60 Days to Stop a War.”
Officially titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal would reduce sanctions on Iran in return for restricting their ability to build a nuclear program.
While Obama could start enacting many of the accord’s provisions, sanctions enacted by the legislature would require a green light from Congress. The Senate is currently considering a resolution to disapprove the deal, which had the potential to derail it. However, 42 Senate Democrats have announced support of the deal, making the passage of the disapproval resolution unlikely.
All of the Democratic representatives from Michigan, including Sens. Gary Peters (D–Mich.) and Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.), have voiced support for the deal.
Most of Michigan’s Republican congressional delegation has announced their opposition to the deal. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette penned an open letter this month urging states to continue sanctions on the country if the deal passes.
Warpehoski said he was surprised events like Thursday’s were necessary.
“It is mind boggling to me that it is controversial, and we need to be organizing vigils and protests to get the number of votes to make sure a presidential veto can hold up,” he said.
Bob Krzewinski, leader of Ann Arbor’s chapter of Veterans for Peace and a speaker at the event, said diplomacy is important if the country hopes to prevent the mistake of hasty military intervention, as he said was made during the Iraq War.
“As a veteran, you see too much war going on,” Krzewinski said. “It is all people in the military ask — before you go to war, exhaust all diplomatic opportunities.”
Krzewinski served during the Vietnam War and said he saw the mental and physical anguish of fellow soldiers and would “not wish that on anyone.”
“I’m a veteran, and I’m just trying to use being a veteran for peace,” he said.
Ann Arbor resident Alan Haber, a member of ICPJ, said he wanted to promote negotiation rather than war.
“It is useful to give people an impression that it is okay to stand on the street and express your political view, even a controversial political view,” Haber said.
Attendees also included four noticeably anti-Israel activists, holding signs that read “boycott Israel” and “defeat Israel.”
According to Warpehoski, these activists were not among those who helped host the event, and they attempted to interrupt Warpehoski during an address to other attendees.
Joanne Leonard, an Ann Arbor resident who attended the vigil, said she supports Israel, but also sees negotiation as a key factor in preventing war.
Several pro-Israel groups have expressed opposition to the deal, arguing it would unfreeze millions in Iranian assets while failing to prevent the country from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“I think it is always a good idea to sit down and talk,” Leonard said. “I think they have a lot of safeguards built in (to the deal), and this is probably the best way rather than just wait for everything to fall out.”