Rally rages downtown

ANSWER protests U.S. occupation of Iraq

Throngs of protesters gathered Saturday to express their opinions on current military action in Iraq at the anti-war rally Saturday on the National Mall.

"Bush lies and people die!" was a popular slogan adopted by many of the speakers, and also appeared on many picket signs.

The rally was sponsored by International ANSWER, which stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, and the group United for Peace and Justice.

ANSWER spokesman Bill Hackwell estimated the crowd had 100,000 people in D.C., much larger than the previously expected 30,000. The group coordinated efforts for a simultaneous march and rally in San Francisco.

The Metropolitan Police Department now refrains from estimating rally attendance. According to MPD spokesperson Officer Kelly Collins-McMurry, these estimates "have become tactics that can promote certain groups' interests."

MPD also declined to estimate how many police officers were present at the rally.

Event organizers and police spokespeopleP2P all said the event was peaceful, and to their knowledge, no arrests were made.

"People came out and really enjoyed the nice day," Collins-McMurry said.

Hackwell said, "The rally was very unified, forceful but peaceful."

The crowd began to form early in the morning in anticipation for the official beginning at 11 a.m.

On a stage near the Washington Monument, a wide array of speakers rallied the protesters. While some chose to focus on the issues regarding military action in Iraq, most took the opportunity to attack Bush and his policies.

Michael McPherson, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, spoke on behalf of the Veterans for Peace organization.

"This is not a war on terrorism, this is not a war for peace," McPherson said. "This is a war on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights!"

Several singers also preformed lyrically charged ballads, and speakers from other countries also lectured with the aid of a translator.

"I'm pissed off about this war, and this rally is a way for me to express my viewpoint with a lot of other people so it will actually get heard," said Meghann Farnsworth, 22, of Sacramento, Calif. "Hopefully it will let other people see that there are a lot of people against the war who want to stop it."

"We could have not gone to the war - we could have resisted and solved 9-11 here at home," Farnsworth said.

After the three-hour rally, the crowd marched around the White House, to the Justice Department and back to the Mall. Police blocked off the route and lined streets for a several block radius with officers.

"Our goal is to provide public safety for the protesters, counter-protesters, as well as the general public during these types of events," Collins-McMurry said. "We work with the folks heading up the event beforehand to decide upon an agreed route."

Paul Landis, a teacher from New York, traveled to D.C. to show his discontent for the war.

"I think this will show that there is very little support for this war occupation," Landis said. "If we don't impeach Bush, we will just be Nazis."

Rosemary Thomas, 44, from Duluth, Minn., took the chance to demonstrate on a larger scale. Thomas' father, a 77-year-old veteran of World War II, still has nightmares from his experiences in the trenches, she said. This encourages Thomas to protest war any chance she can.

"I am absolutely driven by the quest for peace and justice in this world," she said. "[My father] still feels the blood splatter from each fallen soldier."

After the rally, Hackwell said, "What can be concluded is that the anti-war movement has been invigorated - it has really resurrected itself"

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