Global protests rally against Iraq war
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world rallied against the U.S. presence in Iraq on the first anniversary of the war Saturday, in protests that retained the anger, if not the size, of demonstrations held before the invasion began.
Protesters filled more than a dozen police-lined blocks in Manhattan, calling on U.S. President Bush to bring home U.S. troops serving in Iraq. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg estimated the crowd at about 30,000, but organizers said later that number had grown to more than 100,000.
The roughly 250 anti-war protests scheduled around the country by United for Peace and Justice ranged from solemn to brash.
In Montpelier, Vt., hundreds of silent protesters placed a pair of shoes on the Statehouse steps for each of the more than 560 U.S. soldiers killed in the war. In Los Angeles, one of thousands of protesters held photographs of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney with the words, "forget Janet Jackson's ¡ª expose the real boobs."
More than 300 people rallied in Stevens Point, Wis., including the 5-year-old son of Sgt. Mark McClure, a Wisconsin National Guard soldier who has been stationed in the Middle East for 11 months.
Michael McClure made his own, slightly misspelled protest sign: "Let Dady Come Home."
Around the world, hundreds of thousands raised their voices in rallies from Spain to Egypt to the Philippines.
Organizers estimated up to 2 million people demonstrated in Rome, and 100,000 in London, but police in those cities gave estimates of 250,000 and 25,000, respectively.
Anti-war activists jammed the streets of central Rome, many of them decked out in rainbow-colored peace flags and chanting "assassins." Protesters demanded that the Italian government, a strong supporter of the war, withdraw its 2,600 troops from Iraq.
About 150,000 demonstrated in Barcelona, Spain. No crowd estimate was immediately available for Madrid, but the numbers paled in comparison to the millions that packed streets all over Spain after the Madrid train bombings that killed 202 people March 11.
The rallies coincided with the anniversary of the first bombings in Baghdad last year. Although President Bush ordered the attacks on March 19, the time difference made it March 20 in Iraq.
A New York protest a year ago drew more than 125,000 by official estimates. Although that's similar to organizers' estimate Saturday, organizers last year estimated that crowd at more than 250,000.
Last year's rally produced several clashes between demonstrators and police, but New York police reported just four arrests on disorderly conduct charges Saturday. There were scattered arrests in other U.S. cities as well.
New York police in riot gear walked calmly past barricades marking off the demonstration area on Madison Avenue as speakers mounted a stage to address the crowd on a sunny afternoon. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stopped by the rally, but didn't speak to demonstrators or participate.
In President Bush's hometown of Crawford, about 800 peace activists from across Texas marched, chanting, "One, two, three, four, kick the liar out the door." Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader spoke to the crowd and called for Bush's impeachment.
The march kept John Taylor, an Air Force veteran who lives in Crawford, waiting at an intersection. He propped his cowboy hat above the steering wheel of his Ford pickup to block his view of the protesters, some holding up effigies of Bush.
"If they'd leave, it would be nice," said Taylor, 28.
Thousands of protesters marched through Chicago's downtown shopping district. The Rev. Jesse Jackson urged the crowd to express their opposition to the war by voting against Bush.
"It's time to fight back," Jackson said. "Remember in November."
In Cincinnati, Claire Mugavin wore a biohazard suit to a protest that drew several hundred people. She pretended to look for weapons of mass destruction beneath benches and garbage cans.
"We figure they're not in Iraq," said the 24-year-old Cincinnati resident. "So we figured we'd come look for them in Fountain Square."
In San Francisco, thousands of taiko drummers, cyclists, activists and other protesters chanted "End the occupation" and "Impeach Bush."
Thousands of people also turned out in Denver and Seattle, and demonstrations drew several hundred people in Atlanta, Albuquerque, N.M., and Augusta, Maine.
Many of the demonstrations were accompanied by smaller gatherings of Bush supporters. Iraqi-American Kaise Urfali, 46, was among 10 people gathered at the Atlanta rally to oppose the protesters.
"These people have no clue, they have no idea about the meaning of terrorism and the meaning of freedom," said Urfali, who said his family has lived in exile from Iraq since 1958. "These protesters talk in the name of Iraq and none of them are from Iraq, none of them lived in the terror."
Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and other European countries also saw protests, while demonstrations took place earlier in Japan, Australia and India. About 500 protesters clashed with police outside the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines capital, Manila. No injuries were reported.
Demonstrators in Cairo ¡ª vastly outnumbered by riot police ¡ª burned an American flag. Hundreds of people gathered in other Middle Eastern capitals to denounce the war.