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Rally hails troops in Iraq, takes protesters to task

D.C. event draws hundreds to Mall

WASHINGTON -- The last time Robert Young participated in a demonstration, he was protesting the Vietnam War as it wound down.

It took more than 30 years to make it happen again, but Young joined hundreds of others on the National Mall yesterday to support the nation's troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, among them his son, Croft, 32.

''I'm a quiet person," said Young, 65, who traveled from Atlanta with a full-size Marine Corps flag. ''I don't really believe in demonstrations, but I wanted to come here to support my son," a Marine who left Camp Pendleton, Calif., on Wednesday for Fallujah.

The afternoon rally was small in comparison with Saturday's antiwar demonstration, which D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey estimated at at least 100,000. But participants waved flags and placards adorned with such slogans as ''Keep the Promise to Iraq" and cheered the dozens of speakers.

Deborah Johns, the mother of an Iraq war veteran, travels across the country speaking in support of the war. She directed some of her comments yesterday at antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, saying Sheehan speaks neither for Johns nor the public.

After praising President Bush, Johns said she knew what she would like to do with Sheehan and the antiwar protesters who descended on Washington on Saturday: ''I'd like to ship them to Iran." The comment earned applause.

The rally was largely peaceful, punctuated by a few small clashes with antiwar protesters.

By 1 p.m., a small band of antiwar demonstrators had lined up behind the rally stage, where they delivered such chants as ''Hey, Bush, waddaya say? How many kids have you killed today?"

Other antiwar activists spread out across the city.

In the ballroom of a Holiday Inn on Capitol Hill, about 350 ''jurors" sipped coffee and polished off desserts as they watched a mock trial of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, former CIA chief George J. Tenet and US Attorney General Albert Gonzales. The men were accused of violating US law and the Geneva Convention in supporting torture.

A few blocks away on the Mall, about 200 people who planned to be arrested today if President Bush would not agree to meet with them gathered in tents for a workshop on what to expect from police.

Over the weekend, four antiwar protesters were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct.

Serving as a backdrop to yesterday's rally was a gigantic flag created by children at Fort Benning, Ga., who decorated 900 red and white squares to reflect what ''freedom means to me." At the back of the crowd, participants held a banner that read ''God Bless Our Soldiers Liberating the World One Tyrant at a Time."

Attending the rally were many who said they traveled far to support soldiers they said are protecting the cause of freedom, some at the cost of their own lives.

Antia Grater, 60, and her husband, John, 59, traveled from their home near Niagara Falls, N.Y. Their son and his wife were stationed in the Persian Gulf country of Qatar until they returned to the United States a year and a half ago. Grater said the military is a family that has to stand strong.

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