Thousands Rally in DC Against Iraq War

Protest was expected to draw smaller crowds

On the seventh anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, thousands of protesters -- many directing their anger squarely at President Barack Obama -- marched through the District Saturday to urge immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama wasn't the only president picked on by the demonstrators, who also carried signs reading "Indict Bush Now."

Saturday’s large-scale protest signaled the revival of the anti-war movement, that has been largely silent since January 2008, according to The Hindu.

At least eight people, including activist Cindy Sheehan, were arrested by U.S. Park Police at the end of the march, after laying
coffins at a fence outside the White House. Friday marked the seventh anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"Arrest that war criminal!'' Sheehan shouted outside the White House before her arrest, referring to Obama.

At a rally before the march, Sheehan asked whether "the honeymoon was over with that war criminal in the White House'' -- an
apparent reference to Obama -- prompting moderate applause.

The protesters defied orders to clear the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House and park police say they face charges of failure to obey a lawful order.

Activist Ralph Nader told thousands who gathered in Lafayette Park across from the White House that Obama has essentially
continued the policies of the Bush administration, and it was foolish to have thought otherwise.

"He's kept Guantanamo open, he's continued to use indefinite detention,'' Nader said. The only real difference, he said is that
"Obama's speeches are better.''

Others were more conciliatory toward Obama. Shirley Allan of Silver Spring, Md., carried a sign that read, ``President Obama We
love you but we need to tell you! Your hands are getting bloody!! Stop it now.''

Allan thought it was going too far to call Obama a war criminal but said she is deeply disappointed that the conflicts are continuing.

"He has to know it's unacceptable,'' Allan said. "I am absolutely disappointed.''

Some protesters said keeping peace was also a matter of improving our lives in this country.

"The more we rely on war and violence, the more enemies we're going to make and the worse our conditions here at home are going to be," Mike Ferner, a protester in DC, told NBC4.

The protest organized by Act Now to Stop War and Racism or ANSWER drew a smaller crowd than the tens of thousands who marched in 2006 and 2007. Protests in cities around the country also had far fewer participants than in the past.

Protesters in Washington stopped at the offices of military contractor Halliburton -- where they tore apart an effigy of former Vice President and Halliburton Chief Executive Dick Cheney -- the Mortgage Bankers Association and The Washington Post offices. 

On the website for the March 20th protest, the ANSWER Coalition claims "Halliburton has become synonymous with war profiteering" and the Washington Post "has been a staunch supporter of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and continues to operate as an apologist for U.S. aggression."

Anna Berlinrut, of South Orange, N.J., was one of a number of protesters who have children who have served in Iraq, and said her
son supports her protests.

"If there were a draft, we'd have a million people out here,'' Berlinrut said when asked about the turnout. The exact number of
protesters was unclear, as D.C. authorities do not give out crowd estimates. Organizers estimated the march, which stretched for
several blocks, at 10,000.

Despite the arrests, the protest was peaceful. At the outset, police closed a portion of the sidewalk in front of the White House fence after protesters tried to use mud and large stencils to spell out "Iraq veterans against the war.''

Once the sidewalk was closed, the protesters stenciled the message on the street using mud they had carried in buckets to the

Sheehan has been a vocal critic of the war since her 21-year-old son Casey was killed in Iraq in April 2004. She staged a prolonged
demonstration in 2005 outside former President George W. Bush's ranch near Crawford, Texas.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark also spoke at the D.C. rally, calling on the Justice Department to investigate the officials who launched the Iraq war.

Associated Press writers Verena Dobnik from New York, Noaki Schwartz from Los Angeles and Sudhin Thanawala of San Francisco contributed to this report.

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