By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Scores of demonstrators opened two days of war protests yesterday with a raucous morning march along Constitution Avenue and a piece of silent street theater during the evening rush hour inside Union Station.
A full day of rallies, marches, blockades and demonstrations is planned today for downtown Washington to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.
Activists plan to blockade the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service, at 12th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, as well as offices of various corporations in the vicinity of K Street between 13th and 18th streets NW. Antiwar veterans plan a 9 a.m. march on the Mall from the National Museum of the American Indian to the Capitol.
Other events are planned at the Department of Veterans Affairs, McPherson Square, Lafayette Square, the American Petroleum Institute and the Democratic National Committee. A "March of the Dead" from Arlington National Cemetery into the District is set for 9:30 a.m. Other demonstrators will target The Washington Post and other news outlets.
Permits filed with the National Park Service by United for Peace and Justice, the umbrella group organizing the protests, estimate that crowds at the midweek demonstration will likely be in the hundreds rather than the thousands.
Yesterday's events began with a march by about 60 members of the antiwar group Code Pink, who held aloft a living room-size copy of the preamble to the Constitution, beat drums and carried peace signs. They marched along Constitution Avenue from the National Archives to the Justice Department and to the IRS, occasionally disrupting traffic.
About 30 police officers on bicycles and motorcycles and in cars followed them. No arrests were made.
"You're blocking traffic!" a police officer yelled at the protesters as they veered off the sidewalk and into the street.
"We're well aware of that!" one protester yelled back.
At 5:25 p.m., at least 100 people froze in place at the bustling Union Station: A couple kissing, a woman bending over to tie her shoe, several people pointing to maps, a couple sitting at the bar with drinks held halfway to their mouths. All stopped in mid-motion and did not move for 10 minutes in a show of support for the antiwar movement.
Passersby towing suitcases weaved their way through the tableau, dubbed "Frozen Union Station." Dozens of police officers stood by; again, no arrests were made.
"This is the strangest thing," said Michele McKnelly, a librarian from River Falls, Wis., initially unsure why everyone around her had suddenly stopped. "Then I looked around and saw some of them wearing 'End the War' T-shirts."
At 5:35 p.m., the protesters started moving and chanted "End the war" for 10 minutes, then left.
"It was a very, very positive event," said protester Deanna Gorzynski, 52, of New Milford, N.J., who is with a group called the World Can't Wait. "Even those people who don't agree with us stopped to think."