By Carol Morello
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Antiwar protesters marched from the gates of Vice President Cheney's house on Observatory Circle to Dupont Circle yesterday in one of numerous demonstrations across the nation and the world marking the third anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
In their frustration and anger, protesters in Washington echoed participants at similar rallies in Europe, Asia and Australia. Many carried placards or wore buttons describing President Bush and his advisers as liars who had misled the country into war, and called for his impeachment. As they walked down Massachusetts Avenue NW to honks and thumbs-up from passing motorists, protesters chanted demands that troop withdrawal begin immediately.
About 250 people took part in the march sponsored by more than 15 local antiwar groups -- short of the 500 to 5,000 people they expected. Organizers said that they were not disappointed and that there was more impact in many local demonstrations than in one large event.
"This is a decentralized effort that is happening all across the United States and internationally," said Mo Alem of D.C. Resistance Media Collective, one of the sponsors. "Today, there are hundreds of thousands of people in the streets all over the place."
In other cities, turnout also was lower than planners had hoped. In London, for example, organizers expected 100,000 people; police estimated that the march from Parliament to Trafalgar Square drew 15,000.
The antiwar protesters often converged at symbolic locations. In New York's Times Square, they rallied outside a military recruiting station. In Concord, N.H., they marched from a National Guard Armory to the State House.
Overseas, embassies were the location of choice.
In Copenhagen, about 2,000 people marched from the U.S. Embassy to the British Embassy, demanding that the Danish government withdraw its 530 troops in Iraq. In Stockholm, about 1,000 people marched to the U.S. Embassy, including one dressed in a hood like a captive at Abu Ghraib prison. Antiwar activists congregated in Vienna and Rome, Athens and Istanbul, Sydney and Tokyo. More protests are expected today in South Korea and Malaysia.
Britain's defense secretary encouraged people to condemn terrorism instead of the war. Britain plans to withdraw 800 of its 8,000 troops in Iraq by May.
"When people go on the streets of London today, I do wish just occasionally they would go out in support of the United Nations, the Iraqi people and the Iraqi democrats and condemn terrorists," John Reid told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Despite his entreaties, some protesters carried photographs of Bush declaring him the "world's No. 1 terrorist." Others carried placards of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and shouted, "Blair must go!"
Such expressions were also prevalent in Washington. A man wearing a rubber Bush mask had red paint smeared on his hands to resemble blood and wore a T-shirt calling Bush an "international terrorist."
"The world can't wait to drive out this regime of war criminals, torturers, massive spiers and religious fanatics who are rapidly working to reorganize society in a fascist way for generations to come," said Travis Morales, 53, an organizer with the group World Can't Wait.
Many protesters said they have been opposed to the war since its inception. They recalled being considered kooks on the fringe three years ago; now, polls show many Americans oppose the war.
"The American public wasn't with us when we started," said the Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, pastor of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Northeast Washington. "As the lies have been exposed, the American public has moved to the point we started with. Most people believe we aren't crazy anymore."
To counter the antiwar protesters, two people from a pro-administration group called Protest Patriots stood across the street from the rally at the vice president's house. One held a sign saying "Thank God for George Bush." Another listed good things from the Iraq invasion, like ousting a dictator.
Bob Miller, 55, of Richmond, shrugged off the protesters' chants.
"They're straight out of the '60s," he said. "It was wrong then, and it's wrong now."
Wire services and staff writers Jacqueline L. Salmon and Petula Dvorak contributed to this report.