Monday, September 26, 2005

More than 400 anti-war demonstrators — including so-called “Peace Mom” Cindy Sheehan — were arrested yesterday during protests at the White House and the Pentagon.

Mrs. Sheehan, who has used her son’s death in Iraq to spur the anti-war movement, and hundreds of others marched along the pedestrian walkway on Pennsylvania Avenue. At the front of the White House, dozens sat on the sidewalk, knowing that they would be arrested, and began singing and chanting “Stop the war now.”

Others grabbed hold of the iron fence along the White House front lawn and plastered signs on it, one of which read “Remember the Dead.” Dozens of others stood in support behind a police barricade about 20 feet from the sidewalk.

Police warned the sidewalk protesters three times that they were breaking the law by not moving along. Then police began making arrests.

By the end of the protest, police had arrested about 370 people. Several hours earlier, outside the Pentagon, police had arrested 41 anti-war demonstrators who had blocked entrances to the Pentagon metro and bus stops.

“This is in the tradition of civil resistance, a dramatic way to demand that the Bush administration end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home now,” said Bill Dobbs, a spokesman for United for Peace and Justice, a national anti-war coalition that sponsored the protest at the White House.

Mrs. Sheehan, 48, was the first protester to be taken into custody. She smiled as officers carried her by the arms to a police vehicle. As police arrested her, protesters chanted, “The whole world is watching.”

Others arrested included Princeton professor and activist Cornel West and religious leaders from across the country.

The Rev. Jamie Washam, an American Baptist minister from Milwaukee, stood in full ministerial garb as she waited for her turn to be arrested. “We are speaking truth to power in love today,” she said. “It takes more courage for me at this point to keep my mouth closed.”

Protesters outside the White House said they expected to be arrested and that they were looking forward to it.

“I’m going to do anything I can to stop this war,” said Sarah Steiner, 34. “As many times as it takes me to get arrested, I will.”

“It’s an honor to be arrested with this group of people,” said Gary Handschumacher, 58.

Sgt. Scott Fear, a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, said those arrested would be taken to a processing facility and released with a court date. Each was charged with demonstrating without a permit, a misdemeanor.

“The people who want to leave are allowed to leave,” Sgt. Fear said as he stood outside the White House. “All these people are staying voluntarily to be arrested.”

At one point, a group of Secret Service agents subdued and arrested a man who climbed over the White House fence.

Park Police officers in riot gear subdued and arrested a woman who tried to cross a police line to join fellow members of the Code Pink Women for Peace organization on the sidewalk.

Outside the Pentagon, most of the 41 protesters arrested were affiliated with the New York-based War Resisters League, said Frida Berrigan, a member of its National Committee. About 70 protesters showed up, she said.

Ms. Berrigan, who was among those arrested, said the protesters passed out fliers with messages that read: “War is terrorism with a bigger budget,” and contained images of soldiers and Iraqi civilians killed in Iraq.

“We put our bodies between the checkpoints and [the Pentagon] employees,” said Ms. Berrigan, of Brooklyn, N.Y., several hours after she was released from police custody.

The protesters at the Pentagon were charged with either failure to obey police orders or impeding government admin- istration, all misdemeanors.

“If nothing else, Pentagon employees saw our genuine intent … and we challenged them to think in a different way,” Ms. Berrigan said.

Yesterday’s meeting and protests came after a massive demonstration Saturday on the Mall that drew a crowd of about 100,000, the largest such gathering in the capital since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. On Sunday, a rally supporting the war drew roughly 500.

D.C. police said they made four arrests during the weekend rallies.

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