Scattered protests of the war against Iraq briefly blocked lunchtime traffic at four downtown intersections as demonstrators rallied outside the White House with fake blood and dolls to dramatize the Iraqi casualties they foresee.
District police said 26 people -- four of them juveniles -- were arrested and charged with misdemeanors related to the blockades. The majority posted bail and were released.
As part of a noontime protest north of Lafayette Square across from the White House, about 20 activists ran into the intersection of 16th and H streets NW and lay down on the pavement, as police encircled them and kept nearly 200 chanting supporters on the sidewalk.
The blockade, which began about 12:20 p.m., lasted about 30 minutes. Officers blocked traffic while members of the group were taken one by one to a police van, watched by dozens of journalists, office workers and tourists. Some onlookers jeered protesters; others applauded them.
About 20 other activists, including some high school and college students, split from the main protest and staged similar blockades at two intersections on 16th Street and another on 17th Street. They returned to 16th and H, and six of them were arrested.
"The whole point is to show that this is a little bit of the chaos that must be going on in Baghdad," said Josh Healey, 18, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student on spring break who joined the roving protest.
The demonstration was the latest in a series of organized actions to protest U.S. attacks on Iraq. Rallies and vigils continued across the Washington area yesterday, including some at college campuses. The Lafayette Square action was organized by two antiwar groups, United for Peace and Justice and Code Pink: Women for Peace.
More demonstrations are planned today, with the coalition behind some of Washington's biggest antiwar marches calling for activists to meet at the White House at noon. Brian Becker, an organizer with the coalition, International ANSWER, said thousands are expected to turn out. "We are going to be specifically focused on the so-called shock and awe strategy, which includes the mass bombing of Baghdad," Becker said. "We consider this an act of extreme terrorism by the Bush administration."
ANSWER organizers plan to gather at 16th and H streets for a rally and march through the downtown area and some neighborhoods, including Dupont Circle and Columbia Heights.
The intersection of 16th and H has become a new focal point for antiwar sentiment, primarily because it is as close as demonstrators can get to the White House. At the request of the Secret Service, the National Park Service has denied all permits for large demonstrations in Lafayette Square since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. In addition, Pennsylvania Avenue directly across from the White House fence was recently closed to pedestrians for increased security.
Yesterday, in the early moments of the noontime blockade, a protester emptied the contents of a large garbage bag in the middle of the intersection. Tumbling onto the pavement were teddy bears, clothing rags and the arms, legs and torsos of dolls, all smeared with stage blood. Protesters on the pavement had also drenched themselves in the red liquid. Organizers said the action, known as a "die-in," was designed to graphically convey the human toll of war.
"I have great grieving in my heart," said Mary Parker, 61, a retired special education teacher in Mount Rainier who stood outside Lafayette Square with a cardboard tombstone reading, "Dead Iraqi children (collateral damage)." Parker added: "We talk in euphemisms. We don't talk about dead children."
At 16th and K, protesters lay down as police rerouted traffic. Some activists sprawled on the street while others outlined their bodies with chalk. The group left after a few minutes, leaving behind the blue outlines and a chalked message reading, "This is what war looks like."