- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2003

Tens of thousands of protesters thronged the Mall yesterday to rally against imminent war with Iraq and to criticize the Bush administration for resorting to force.
The crowd assembled near the Washington Monument for a daylong demonstration and march around the White House, echoing protests across the globe that drew millions in what could be the last such opportunities before the United States and its allies attack Saddam Hussein's regime.
Some demonstrators here yelled familiar anti-war slogans such as "No Blood for Oil" and "No Justice, No Peace." Others carried placards reading "Vive la France" in support of France's vow to veto any new U.N. Security Council resolution that delivers an ultimatum to Saddam.
Postal Service worker Howard Williams, 49, hoisted a sign reading "I Love French Fries I Hate the Bush Regime."
"We aren't a focus group we are the people," the Capitol Heights resident said, referring to a recent statement by the president that he can't decide what is in the nation's security interests based on protests.
The demonstration was organized by the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) Coalition, which estimated that about 100,000 participated.
Shahkeh Setian, 69, who traveled to the District from Mashpee, Mass., near Cape Cod, said Mr. Bush is using the September 11 attacks as a reason for war.
"There were no Iraqis in those planes. The president and his advisers know how to spin it," she said.
About 50 counterprotesters, including members of Free Republic, gathered at Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street NW, carrying signs and buttons in red, white and blue with slogans such as "We Must Fight for Freedom."
Others dressed in Saddam Hussein Halloween masks and shouted through bullhorns.
"We gave peace a chance, and we got 9/11," some called as antiwar demonstrators marched past.
Demonstrators on both sides accused each other of lacking adequate information. But they agreed that freedom to protest is a vital aspect of America.
"I think that's what makes America so great. We can go out here and have no worry about getting shot down," said Kyle Lewis, 23, of Olney, a Bush supporter who attended with three friends. "They can support their side and we can come up here and hold up our signs."
Roxann Chiusano, a real estate broker from Bethesda, linked the need for war to protection of freedom. Mrs. Chiusano said she tells her 17-year-old daughter, who is against war in Iraq, to "be proud that we have the right to protest, because it could be taken away from us."
After the 2-hour rally, the crowd marched up 17th Street NW, past the White House. About 50 demonstrators broke off and a group entered World Bank headquarters on 18th Street NW.
D.C. police arrested six and said seven others escaped out the west side of the building, where a window had been shattered.
The antiwar message also was carried to the streets in Moscow and scores of other cities in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
About 10,000 protesters, including some who remember World War II, paraded peacefully through central Tokyo.
"Let's put aside the discussion of which side is wrong or right," said Miwako Masuda. "In my youth, I experienced the war and lost my family."
Thousands rallied in Australia and New Zealand. In Bangkok, Thailand, about 1,000 chanting demonstrators gathered outside a U.N. office. War protests also were staged in South Korea, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
On Friday, the Islamic Sabbath, 4,000 protesters shouted in the presence of an even larger number of riot police in Cairo, Egypt, and 300 marched yesterday at Cairo University. "This is a symbol," writer Mohammed Abdel Qudos said on the campus. "We know that we won't prevent war."
Noisy demonstrators took to the streets yesterday from Athens, Greece, and Bucharest, Romania, to Frankfurt, Germany, and Madrid, Spain.
On the Mall in Washington, U.S. Park Police reinforced their ranks with officers from New York and San Francisco.
"Although permits call for as many as 20,000 people, we are expecting quite a bit more than that based on information from organizers," spokesman Sgt. Scott Fear said early on.
"We will march, protest, picket nonviolently until this has ended," said Rep. John Conyers, Michigan Democrat, one of the more prominent speakers. "We need a regime change in the United States."
Also among the speakers were Ramsey Clark, U.S. attorney general under PresidentJohnson; Joslyn Williams, president of the D.C. Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO; and Gene Bruskin of U.S. Labor Against the War.
Mr. Clark told the crowd that the Bush administration is tuning out voices against war and acting too hastily.
"It must be hard for them to believe that there are millions and millions of people in the United States that love them," Mr. Clark said of Iraqi citizens. "Each of their lives is as worthy as yours or mine."
Demonstrators enjoyed sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s. Some picnicked while others perched in trees to get a bird's-eye view of the stage.
Adam Mitchell, 28, who arrived with two busloads of protesters from Athens, Ohio, painted the scene with the monument as focal point.
"I feel that if we continue to live in fear, we are leading ourselves to our own apocalypse," Mr. Mitchell said, seated on a milk crate. "If we take the walls down and learn to respect one another, that's the key to our survival."
"This is a war against terrorism. Saddam Hussein finances and gives refuge to terrorists," said John Chick, 34, of Mount Airy, Md.
Michelle Rothman contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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