- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 3, 2004

Heavy security in anticipation of protests at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank buildings snarled downtown traffic yesterday in the District, while anti-war demonstrators carrying coffins from Arlington National Cemetery to the White House caused most of the problems for police.

Bumper-to-bumper gridlock gripped dozens of city blocks in every direction around 18th and 19th streets NW, where the two financial institutions held their annual fall meetings at their headquarters. The roughly 4-square-block section around the buildings will remain closed today until 7 p.m.

U.S. Park Police said 28 of the war protesters were arrested in the late afternoon after crossing a police barrier. They were staging an act of civil disobedience by crossing barriers set up on the White House Ellipse and sitting in the restricted area.

Sirens wailed through much of the afternoon, as Metropolitan Police staffed the expanded security perimeter around the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings, despite only about a dozen anti-globalization protesters across the street.

The rallies around the financial institutions sharply contrasted with the one in September 2002, when more than 500 protesters were arrested after lighting a smoke bomb, overturning newspaper boxes and vowing to “shut down the city.”

Police said the rally yesterday was small and peaceful and that increased security was geared more toward the warning of an increased terrorism threat to major financial institutions in New York and Washington.

The District raised its terror-threat level from elevated (yellow) to high (orange) in August, after an announcement by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge of the increased threat.

The anti-war march remained peaceful through much of the day, though there were some heated moments. By late morning, about 400 persons gathered at Arlington National Cemetery, ringing the circular fountain at the entrance with 100 coffins draped in black cloth.

The rally opened with a procession of speakers — many of them the parents or spouses of U.S. troops in Iraq — who addressed the crowd from beneath a large banner: “Mourn the Dead, Heal the Wounded, End the War!”

About a dozen different groups sponsored the rally, including Military Families Speak Out and Iraq Veterans Against the War.

“My main concern is that the war is unnecessary,” said Linda Englund, 55, whose son, Army Pfc. Jon Englund, 22, is serving in Iraq. “Things are getting worse all the time, our children, who are there, tell us.”

With a dreary, dark-gray sky overhead, the demonstrators lifted the coffins and began a slow 3-mile march from the cemetery to theEllipse, where 1,000 more coffins, some draped in U.S. flags, were on display.

In one tense moment, the procession met brief resistance near the exit of the cemetery. A group of about two dozen war supporters gathered and shouted at the mock pallbearers.

“Baghdad’s that way,” said a counterprotester.

Don Simmons, 39, carried a sign that read: “Democrats: Cowards, traitors, domestic enemies.”

“They’re assembling coffins on hallowed ground, a final resting place of heroes, for their political agenda,” said Mr. Simmons, a 17-year active-duty member of the Army from Beaumont, Texas, posted at the Pentagon.

The counterprotesters, at one point, also chanted in unison: “You never march against Osama. You never march against Saddam.”

Before the march had begun, a pamphlet was circulated around the anti-war crowd telling them: “No responding to hecklers.”

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