- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2007

Thousands of protesters, including a large group of military veterans, marched from the White House to the Capitol yesterday, demanding an end to the Iraq war.

Photo Gallery: Protesting the war

The mostly peaceful demonstration began with a rally at Lafayette Park and ended with a “die in” on the Capitol lawn. Scores of protesters were arrested after jumping a waist-high barricade at the base of the Capitol steps.

Nearly 100 Capitol Police officers were on guard — some in riot gear. Police said they made about 160 arrests for crossing police lines.

Protesters began gathering outside the White House yesterday morning, carrying signs that read, “Support the troops. End the War” and “Impeach Bush.”

“We’re here to a make a point, loud and clear, that the American people are ready for the war to end,” said 23-year-old Morgan Weiland, a volunteer with the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, or ANSWER, coalition, which organized the protest. “We’re organized, we’re present and we’re fed up.”

Crowds appeared significantly smaller than the tens of thousands organizers had promised. Despite clear skies and balmy temperatures, attendance was also well below the number who gathered in January for an antiwar demonstration headlined by Jane Fonda, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.

About 13 blocks away from the rally, a large gathering of counterprotesters gathered east of the Washington Monument on the National Mall, frequently erupting in chants of “U-S-A” and other slogans to support the Iraq war and U.S. troops. Many in the crowds of nearly 1,000 waived American flags.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert “Buzz” Patterson, speaking from a stage to crowds clad in camouflage, American flag bandanas and Harley-Davidson jackets, said he wanted to send three messages.

“Congress, quit playing games with our troops. Terrorists, we will find you and kill you,” he said. “And to our troops, we’re here for you, and we support you.”

The antiwar rally drew protesters of all ages from around the country.

Bill McDannell, 58, arrived in the District last month after a nearly year-long walk from San Diego to protest the war and “engage in thoughtful discussion about what’s happening in our country,” he said.

“The people we talk to across the country are at a very different place than Congress thinks they are,” said Jonna O’Dell, Mr. McDannell’s wife.

Around 2 p.m., protesters began marching toward the Capitol, led by a group called Iraq Veterans Against the War.

“What do we want? Troops out. When do we want it? Now,” protesters chanted.

As the march made its way east on Pennsylvania Avenue shortly after 2 p.m., a smaller group of counterprotesters from the Vietnam veterans group Gathering of Eagles marched in front of the antiwar protesters carrying a banner that read, “Warning: Leftist protesters trying to demoralize our troops.”

“We think this protest is disgusting,” said 16-year-old Nicholas Schoch, a Gathering of Eagles volunteer. “We’ve got guys out there risking their lives. If we stop now, all those people who are deceased — it would have been for nothing.”

Nicholas said his uncle is about to deploy on his second tour in Iraq.

“He wants to keep fighting for his country,” he said. “He’s over there talking to [the Iraqis]. What do these people know?”

Hundreds of counterprotesters, including veterans groups and the George Washington University College Republicans, lined two blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue holding signs that read “Peace thru strength” and “Safe since 9/11.”

They jeered as antiwar protesters marched by, in some cases instigating heated exchanges between the two camps, which were separated by barricades manned by lines of police officers.

Law-enforcement presence was heavy throughout the day, and included U.S. Park Police, Metropolitan Police and U.S. Capitol Police.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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