Demonstrators held hands as members of Iraq Veterans Against the War participated in an antiwar march yesterday in Manhattan. This week, the House plans to vote on a spending bill that would set a US troop withdrawal deadline of Sept. 1, 2008.

Antiwar protests attract thousands

Demonstrations in US and overseas

By Marcus Wohlsen
Associated Press / March 19, 2007
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SAN FRANCISCO -- For the second consecutive day, thousands of protesters took to the streets across the nation yesterday to call for an end to funding of the Iraq war or an immediate return of US troops.

Demonstrators gathered in San Francisco, New York, Portland, Ore., and elsewhere to mark the fourth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq and call on President Bush to heed what they say is the will of the people.

In largely peaceful demonstrations, about 3,000 people in San Francisco closed Market Street, a major downtown thoroughfare.

In New York, protesters converged in a park near the United Nations headquarters. Police offered no crowd estimate, but it appeared to be well over 1,000 people.

Dozens of police in San Francisco on foot and motorcycle blocked traffic and kept an eye on the crowd, which stretched for blocks through the financial district. No arrests were reported by police.

Antiwar activists also gathered yesterday in Providence and dozens of other cities and towns across New England.

Gary Fong, 65, carried a sign calling on Bush to "listen to America" as he marched in San Francisco.

"I think the war effort at this point is futile," said the retired school guidance counselor and former Army intelligence officer. "We want to do our part to express to Bush and the government that change needs to be made."

In New York, where union members, war veterans, and representatives of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow-PUSH Coalition joined protesters, the line of marchers extended for several blocks.

Actor Tim Robbins, speaking at an earlier rally organized by the New York chapter of United for Peace and Justice, told the crowd that getting Congress to cut off funds for the war "would be a good way" to get the troops home.

"The American people want this war to end," said Robbins, a frequent participant in antiwar protests.

"That's the message they sent last November in the election. When are we going to start listening to them?"

Police lined sidewalks, and some walked ahead of the protesters as they marched toward the offices of the state's US senators, Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Demonstrators carried signs reading "Impeach Bush," and "Not one more dollar, not one more death."

In Portland, Ore., thousands of marchers packed a grassy stretch downtown to call for an end to the war.

"There are Iraqis who can rebuild their country," Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi-Palestinian blogger, told the crowd. "They don't need someone to come from thousands of miles away to tell them how to treat their neighbor. They are the only ones who can end this violence."

Bush was at Camp David in Maryland for the weekend. Spokesman Blair Jones said of the protests: "Our Constitution guarantees the right to peacefully express one's views. The men and women in our military are fighting to bring the people of Iraq the same rights and freedoms."

This week, the House plans to vote on a war spending bill that includes a troop withdrawal deadline of Sept. 1, 2008.

That timetable would speed up if the Iraqi government cannot meet its own benchmarks for providing security, allocating oil revenues, and taking other essential steps.

Bush has vowed to veto any measure that requires removal of troops.

No counterdemonstrators were visibly present in New York, as they had been at an antiwar rally in Washington on Saturday that drew thousands to the Pentagon and the Lincoln Memorial.

In San Francisco, a smattering of counterprotesters waving American flags also gathered in what they described as a show of support for US troops.

"It's important to make sure that the sacrifices that we've already made are worth it," said Leigh Wolf, 20, a San Francisco State University student. "This is a war we can still win."

Trish Gorman, who rode a bus with 55 other people from Bennington, Vt., to attend the Manhattan rally, said: "The people have to speak. The government is not listening to the people. Sitting quietly at home is not doing it."

She said she supports a "safe and well-thought-out defunding and withdrawal" from Iraq.

Michelle Barish said she had sent a gas mask to her brother, a soldier soon to be deployed to Iraq, but was concerned that cutting funds was not the right way to bring the war to an end.

"If they cut off funding, does that mean I'm going to have to send a bulletproof vest and care packages?" she asked.

New York state Senator Bill Perkins, a Democrat, held a sign saying "We will not be silent." Of the anniversary of the war's beginning in March 2003, Perkins said, "We knew then and we know even more now that the war was unjustified."

About 3,200 US troops have been killed since the US-led invasion, as well as an estimated 60,000 Iraqis.

The cost of the war is expected to top $500 billion by the end of the year.

Hundreds of war protesters rallied in central Tokyo yesterday, one of several overseas demonstrations held this weekend.

Organizers said about 2,000 people participated. Participants held a rally at a Tokyo park, then marched through the center of the city.

The protesters carried banners reading "No War," "Don't kill in Iraq," and "Down with Bush."

"America must pull its troops from Iraq immediately and end its occupation," said Naoyuki Oyama, head of an antiwar coalition of labor unions and activist groups. "We demand that Japan also remove its troops from the region."

Japan, Washington's staunchest ally in Asia, sent several hundred troops to Iraq on a humanitarian mission to support the invasion.

The contingent was pulled out last year, but Tokyo still operates airlifts to ferry US and UN personnel to Iraq.

The country's military involvement in Iraq has been unpopular with the Japanese public, with many saying it violates the nation's pacifist Constitution and makes Japan a terrorist target.

In addition to Washington, rallies were held Saturday in Denver, Chicago, Hartford, Oklahoma City, and Lincoln, Neb.

Overseas, thousands marched in Madrid, Istanbul, and Athens.

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