• U.S. troops have been in Iraq since 2003
  • Anti-American sentiment ratcheted up with the targeted drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad airport
  • Friday's protest was separate from anti-government protest that have been roiling Iraq for months.

Tens of thousands of protesters, chanting “no, no to America,” clutching Iraqi flags and wearing white sheets mimicking shrouds took to the streets of Baghdad on Friday in a so-called million man march to demand the withdrawal of foreign troops amid growing anti-U.S. sentiment.

Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the first Shiite cleric to take up arms against the U.S. when troops first invaded in 2003, prompted the protest, calling for a million people to take part in a show of force.

A Sadr representative told the crowd: “We will exhaust all peaceful, political, economic, social, cultural and popular means to achieve our main goal, which is scheduling the departure of the occupation forces.” The crowd responded, chanting: “No, no to America! No, no to the occupation! No, no to corruption!”

The protesters, who gathered in al-Hurriya Square, carried posters featuring caricatures of U.S. President Trump, some depicting his head in a noose.

"We came here to answer the call of the nation," Thurgham al-Tamimi of Karbala, accompanied by his two children, told CNN. "Our country is exposed to foreign interference from East and West." He added: "We don't want any country to decide the fate of Iraq. We want to see Iraq with full sovereignty."

“Americans came to our country talking of freedom and democracy,” Qayser al-Saad, 23, of Baghdad’s Sadr City, told the Washington Post. “Today we’re asking them to leave so we can have just that. It won’t happen in a homeland occupied by foreigners.”

"Iraqis insist on a … sovereign state … free from interference … from abroad," Iraqi President Barham Salih tweeted.

Iraq has been roiled by unrest for months, with anti-government protests demanding an overhaul of the political system. More than 500 people have died in those protests.

Security was tight through the Iraqi capital, which has seen an increase in unrest since the U.S. carried out a targeted drone strike near Baghdad airport that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani Jan. 3. Many Iraqis labeled the attack a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

Other Shiite powers joined Sadr’s call for a more aggressive effort to oust U.S. troops, initiating a campaign with slogans including, “2020 Iraq without America” and “Get out of our country,” Site Intelligence Group reported. Social media sported anti-U.S. posters and video, many taken from Iranian propaganda, harking back to the 1920 Iraqi revolt that ended the British occupation.

Iraq’s Parliament has voted to expel U.S. troops, but U.S. President Trump has said he’s not ready to pull them out yet.