Correction to This Article
A Sept. 25 article incorrectly reflected the message on a Buddhist Peace Delegation banner in Saturday's antiwar march. The sign read, "May all beings be safe and free from anger, fear, greed, delusion and all ill being."

Antiwar Fervor Fills the Streets

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By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 25, 2005

Tens of thousands of people packed downtown Washington yesterday and marched past the White House in the largest show of antiwar sentiment in the nation's capital since the conflict in Iraq began.

The demonstration drew grandmothers in wheelchairs and babies in strollers, military veterans in fatigues and protest veterans in tie-dye. It was the first time in a decade that protest groups had a permit to march in front of the executive mansion, and, even though President Bush was not there, the setting seemed to electrify the crowd.

Signs, T-shirts, slogans and speeches outlined the cost of the Iraq conflict in human as well as economic terms. They memorialized dead U.S. troops and Iraqis, and contrasted the price of war with the price of recovery for areas battered by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Riffs on Vietnam-era protests were plentiful, with messages declaring, "Make Levees, Not War," "I never thought I'd miss Nixon" and "Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam." Many in the crowd had protested in the 1960s; others weren't even born during those tumultuous years.

Protest organizers estimated that 300,000 people participated, triple their original target. D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, who walked the march route, said the protesters achieved the goal of 100,000 and probably exceeded it. Asked whether at least 150,000 showed up, the chief said, "That's as good a guess as any.

"It's their protest, not mine. It was peaceful -- that's all I care about," Ramsey said.

The protesters rallied at the Ellipse, then marched through a misty drizzle around the White House and along Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The crowd thinned as events continued into the evening with a concert on the grounds of the Washington Monument that featured Joan Baez and other performers, along with antiwar speeches.

The police presence along the demonstration's route seemed more relaxed than at recent protests, although D.C. police and U.S. Park Police had hundreds of officers in place to deal with potential trouble. Police said a construction fence was torn down and a newspaper box damaged, but they reported no injuries or major problems. They said three people were arrested -- one on a charge of destruction of property, one on a charge of attempted theft and one on a charge of disorderly conduct.

More than 200 counter-demonstrators set up outside the FBI building on Pennsylvania Avenue, and some back-and-forth yelling occurred as the antiwar marchers moved past. "Shame on you! Shame on you!" one counter-protester shouted at the antiwar group. Several dozen officers stood between the two groups, and no trouble erupted, police said.

Some organizations supporting the war in Iraq plan to demonstrate today on the Mall.

Antiwar groups staged smaller rallies yesterday in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, London, Rome and other cities. In Washington, the events were sponsored by groups including the ANSWER Coalition and United for Peace and Justice and focused on a succinct theme: "End the War in Iraq and Bring the Troops Home Now."

Roughly 147,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq. Since the war began in March 2003, 1,911 U.S. members of the military have been killed and 14,641 have been wounded.

The protest groups helped organize caravans and carpools, and many participants began arriving early in the morning after bumpy, all-night bus rides.


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