Antiwar Protests In D.C., San Fran

Demonstrators march on 17th Street in Washington near the White House to protest the U.S. troops' presence in Iraq on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2003. The thousands strong march, labeled 'Bring the Troops Home Now, End the Occupation of Iraq,' was organized by the groups A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (Act Now To Stop War and End Racism) and United For Peace And Justice. AP

To chants of "Impeach Bush," thousands of anti-war protesters rallied in the nation's capital Saturday and delivered a scathing critique of President Bush and his Iraq policy.

Hundreds of people marched in San Francisco in a demonstration that mirrored the larger one in Washington.

Demanding an end to the U.S.-led occupation and the quick return of American troops, the demonstrators gathered on a sunny autumn day at the Washington Monument to listen to speeches and songs of peace.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights leader who's running for the Democratic presidential nomination, exhorted the crowd not to be content with the gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

"Don't give Bush $87 billion (for Iraq), don't give him 87 cents, give our troops a ride home," Sharpton said to loud cheers from the crowd.

The protest drew a diverse crowd - young, old, veterans, relatives with loved ones in the armed forces and American Muslims.

They waved signs reading "Make Jobs, Not War" and "Bush is a liar" as they marched in a giant circle toward the White House, on to the Justice Department and then back to the Washington Monument.

The Secret Service placed obstacles to keep the protesters from marching directly in front of the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue. Mr. Bush was spending the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

About 130,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, where they face more than two dozen attacks daily from die-hard Saddam Hussein supporters. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote in a memo last week that the United States can "win in Afghanistan and Iraq," but "it will be a long, hard slog."

Michael McPhearson, a veteran from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, denounced the president, saying he had misled the nation. "You have butchered the truth, George Bush."

Organizers expected more than 30,000 would turn out for the protest, but the crowd - which filled the area between the monument and the Ellipse near the White House - appeared much smaller.

Because the U.S. Park Police no longer issues crowd estimates, the size of the crowd could not be verified.

International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and United for Peace and Justice, which organized the protest, also planned a mass demonstration in San Francisco for later Saturday.

Some demonstrators at the Washington rally acknowledged that the crowd was lighter than previous protests during and before the war.

At one point during the afternoon, a shouting match erupted between an anti-war crowd and counterdemonstrators holding "Trust Jesus" signs. Police moved in on horses to separate the two sides. No arrests were made.

Before the rally, about 200 protesters played songs, listened to drummers and rallied for peace in a park about 20 blocks north of the White House. The crowd at the Black Voices for Peace rally then marched down past the White House to join the larger demonstration at the Washington Monument.

The D.C. chapter of Free Republic, an independent grass-roots conservative group, gathered dozens of people at the U.S. Capitol to show support for Bush and the troops in Iraq.

"Whether or not the war should have started is a moot point," said Eric Campbell, a 32-year-old who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. "We have to stay if anything for the Iraqi people."

Five groups helped arrange transportation to the San Francisco rally for protesters from Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and more than two dozen California cities.

Protesters at Civic Center Plaza waved large signs with slogans including "Register to vote for peace" and "Support our troops. Bring them home."

San Francisco rally speakers included a Marine reservist who was sentenced to prison leaving his unit to protest the war and Vietnam Veteran Ron Kovic -- who wrote "Born on the Fourth of July."

In Seoul, two thousand demonstrators protested against plans to send more South Korean troops to Iraq.
  • Brian Dakss

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