Antiwar Protest Held in Washington

By Jerry Markon and Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 15, 2007; 5:40 PM

Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Washington today, from near the White House to the Capitol, where they staged a "die-in" to demonstrate their fervent opposition to the war in Iraq.

Protesters and counter-protesters started to gather by 8:30 a.m. for the first major anti-war protest in Washington since January, which is expected to be followed by a week of civil disobedience in the area intended to shift the anti-war movement to a more confrontational phase.

Police saiddozens of protesters had been arrested without incident after they climbed over a waist-high metal fence officers had erected at the base of the Capitol.

Cheered on by the crowd, more demonstrators were leaping over the fence every few minutes late this afternoon and were being taken into custody.

Like the last major anti-war march in January, when tens of thousands descended on the Mall, today's events come at a tense time in the fractious debate over the U.S. mission in Iraq.

Today's rally and march on the Capitol follows this week's congressional testimony by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and President Bush's speech to the nation on Thursday.

The president ordered the first limited troop withdrawals since voters elected an antiwar Congress last year, but Democratic leaders immediately criticized his plan.

The event today is organized by the ANSWER Coalition, which stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. It formally began at noon at Lafayette Park, on the north side of the White House, with speeches from at least two dozen speakers ranging from former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Ralph Nader to Washington Wizards player Etan Thomas and Michael Berg, whose son Nicolas was a contractor killed in Iraq.

"The majority of the people in this country and in Iraq are working people, and working people want this war to end,'' Fred Mason, president of the Maryland and District AFL-CIO, told the crowd amid chants of "Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation."

Mason said war opponents had been optimistic that Democrats "would have the guts and backbone to end this war" when they took control of Congress this year, but "that has not been the case."

As of 2:47 p.m., protesters were at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue on their way to the Capitol, said D. C. Police Commander Patrick Burke. The "die-in" at the Capitol was expected to feature the playing of taps and a mock 21-gun salute.

Earlier, in Lafayette Park, hundreds of protesters walked around with signs that said the country should "drop Bush, not bombs" and declaring the president guilty of war crimes. They also listened to songs such as "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" and Edwin Starr's classic antiwar song "War."

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