- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 15 (UPI) — Protesters around the world Saturday were making what they feared was their last stand against an invasion of Iraq.

"Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld: the real axis of evil," said one banner in Washington, where a rally at the U.S. Capitol was followed by a march down Pennsylvania Ave. to the White House.

Its tenant was not at home. President George W. Bush, who has spearheaded the drive to disarm Iraq, by force if necessary, was at Camp David preparing for a one-day summit Sunday in the Azores with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

There was widespread belief that once that summit is concluded, Bush would make one final demand that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein disarm, and a war could begin by week's end or sooner.

Anti-war demonstrations also took place in San Francisco, Paris — where crowd estimates reached 50,000 — and Beirut.

"We don't want the Iraqi people to suffer one more time," said a student at the American University of Beirut who joined the crowd in front of the United Nations House in Beirut's city center. "If they (U.S.) attack Iraq, there will be another Sept. 11," referring to the 2001 terror attacks in New York and Washington.

In San Francisco, anti-war protesters gathered at Civic Center Plaza, with some two-dozen speeches and performances, before a march ending at Jefferson Square Park with a rally.

"Give thanks and praise for living in a country that tolerates dissent as if basic human rights are given by the gracious hand of any state," actor Martin Sheen told a supportive crowd. "Lord make us instruments of your peace."

There were demonstrations in favor of President Bush's approach as well, including a rally in Atlanta.

Thousands of flag waving people attended the "Rally for America" event, hosted by Newsradio 640 WGST. Some people also waved signs as local talk show host Kim Peterson and syndicated host Glen Beck rallied support for the president and the military.

"I promise you, our troops hear your voice today," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Beck as telling the crowd.

Atlanta police wouldn't give crowd estimates, but event organizers said between 25,000 and 30,0000 attended the rally at Centennial Olympic Park.

In Washington, about 50 supporters stood behind police barricades at Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street and, in high spirits, waved signs such as "Disarm Saddam, Free Iraq" and "Bomb the French."

Encouraged by a sunny afternoon, the anti-war protesters unfurled banners and collected donations to help the organizers who brought thousands of people from places as far away as Florida and Maine.

"No war, no blood for oil," they shouted, keeping time with the drums that were beaten all day. "No to mother of all bombs," said another. "Don't kill the children of Iraq," shouted a protester struggling to unfurl her banner.

Despite the march's peaceful atmosphere, D.C police said six protesters were arrested.

Five anti-war protesters were arrested Saturday for entering the World Bank headquarters in downtown Washington. Police said those arrested have been charged with unlawful entry, while officers believe seven others escaped through a shattered window.

A group of about 50 demonstrators broke off from a rally on the National Mall and rushed to the building in downtown Washington.

Organizers said the events in the U.N. Security Council and the reluctance of allies like Turkey to endorse the U.S.-led move shows the entire world is against this war. The Bush administration, they said, would be committing a war crime if it went to war now.

"We feel that it's not too late for the people to stop this war. There's still hope," said Tony Murphy of the International ANSWER coalition, the main march organizer.

The protesters were supported by 70 members of Congress who asked Bush to give U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq more time. "Let us give peace a chance. Let us pull back from the brink of war," the former lawmakers said in a statement.

The ex-lawmakers – all but four of them Democrats – called the Iraqi crisis a very unpopular war which will increase terrorist attacks and destabilize the Middle East. Concerns for innocent Iraqis, who may be killed by U.S. bombs, also prevents them from supporting the war, they said.

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