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Thousands of Anti-War Protesters March in Washington


Thousands of anti-war activists rallied in Washington Saturday to demand an end to the Iraq war, the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops and the impeachment of President Bush. At least 5,000 people marched from the White House to Capitol Hill, while hundreds of counter-demonstrators lined the route to show their support for the U.S. troops in Iraq. VOA's Michael Lipin reports.

Thousands of anti-war activists rallied in Washington Saturday to demand an end to the Iraq war, the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops and the impeachment of President Bush. At least 5,000 people marched from the White House to Capitol Hill, while hundreds of counter-demonstrators lined the route to show their support for the U.S. troops in Iraq. VOA's Michael Lipin reports.


Anti-war protesters march demanding an end to the war in Iraq, the return of US troops and the impeachment of US President George W. Bush in Washington, DC
The anti-war protest began with Iraq war veterans, military families and other activists gathering in a park outside of the White House.

Speakers condemned the Democratic Party-controlled U.S. Congress for continuing to fund the war, and demanded that war funds be diverted to solve U.S. domestic problems.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, one of the keynote speakers, accused the Bush administration of carrying out torture, kidnapping and other human rights abuses. "Nothing is going to stop this machine except the impeachment of George Bush and his gang ... when you remove him for high crimes, then you know the next president will pay attention," he said.

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in the Iraq war, came out of a self-imposed retirement from the protest movement to address the crowd. "If we don't want to become like Nazi Germany, and you know, these people want us to become like Nazi Germany, it's time for us to stand up and lay down, and it's time for us to do civil disobedience on a massive scale," she said.

She later told VOA that she believes most Iraqi people would let American troops withdraw from their country with honor. "We do have enemies, but the way to deal with those enemies is to use diplomacy, economics, to secure our own country - and not to go and occupy other countries it only increases our enemies," she said.

Iraq war veterans led the thousands of activists on a march from the White House to Capitol Hill. One veteran named Leonard who served in Iraq described his experience there as horrible. "The longer we stay over there, the more people will die for no reason at all. It's genocide, what's going on over there," he said.

About 1,000 counter-demonstrators lined the route of the march, waving American flags and shouting their support for the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

One counter-demonstrator said the anti-war marchers meant well but were misguided. "The hubris they sell in saying that we can end the war simply by leaving Iraq is just stupid. The war is not going to end when we leave Iraq - if we leave, it's just going to go some place else," they said.

Many of the anti-war activists and counter-demonstrators hurled insults at each other, but remained peaceful.

In his weekly radio address to the nation Saturday President Bush said the success of a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States. "If we were to be driven out of Iraq, extremists of all strains would be emboldened. Al Qaida could find new recruits and new sanctuaries. And a failed Iraq could increase the likelihood that our forces would someday have to return and confront extremists even more entrenched and even more deadly," he said.

The president has announced that 5,700 U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year. And he intended to reduce the American troops level in Iraq to about 130,000 by next Summer.

The march ended with hundreds of anti-war activists lying down at the foot of the Congress building to symbolize the American troops who have died in Iraq. About 100 anti-war demonstrators were arrested by police as they tried to cross the barricade in front of the U.S. Congress building.

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