- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Protests marking the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war today included no Hollywood stars and drew only a fraction of the tens of thousands that typically come to the nation’s capital to protest wars.

A collection of anti-war group members, whose number reached only about 1,000, instead chose to scatter across the city in small, renegade bands to block traffic and disrupt the work at the Internal Revenue Service, news media outlets and other organizations they called the “pillars of war.”

Organizers said the relatively small turnout was no indication the anti-war movement has lost momentum.

“We’ve done the marches,” Frida Berrigan, 33, of the War Resisters League, of New York City, told The Washington Times. “But for the fifth anniversary we needed to something different.”

In January 2007, tens of thousands, including actress and Vietnam-era protester Jane Fonda, came to the District for weekend protests. There were reports of only minor incidents and a handful of arrests.

War protests on Washington have slowly dwindled since their height on Oct. 21, 1967. An estimated 50,000 people marched in front of the Defense Department’s headquarters and roughly 600 protesters were arrested.

This morning, about 30 people were arrested when they crossed a barricade and blocked entrances at the Internal Revenue Service headquarters, on Constitution Avenue Northwest, the historic downtown thoroughfare lined with Washington landmarks.

Michael Franc, vice president of government affairs at the Heritage Foundation, in the District, said the small turnout today reflects the issues defining the presidential race, particularly how the issue of the war has become “second fiddle” to the economy and health care.

“What the candidates are saying and not saying is a market test of how interest in the war has diminished,” he said.

A marching band led protesters today along the Mall, which stretches from Capitol Hill to the Lincoln Memorial.

A tense scene unfolded before noon when a band of protesters blocked off the intersection at 14th and K streets Northwest, near the American Petroleum Institute, forcing Metropolitan Police Department officers to move protesters to the sidewalks and take down the police tape they used to block the intersection.

Some protestors chanted “No blood for oil.”

Among the other groups protesting were Code Pink, Veterans for Peace and Peace Action and United for Peace and Action.

Groups supporting the war were also present. A handful of people gathered at a nearby armed forces recruiting center, holding signs such as “We support our brave military and their just mission.”

“We’re out here to show support for our troops on the anniversary of the liberation of Iraq,” said Kristinn Taylor, 45, of the District.

The marchers’ first stop was the National Museum of the American Indian, where they were met by American Indian folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie, who sang her Vietnam-era peace anthem “Universal Soldier.”

Similar protests were scheduled throughout the country. In Ohio, more than 20 different vigils, rallies, marches and other events were planned.

College students from New Jersey to North Dakota have planned walkouts, while students at the University of Minnesota vowed to shut down military recruiting offices on campus.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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