Americans around the country marked International Human Rights Day with protests and vigils aimed at showing their opposition to a possible war with Iraq. The demonstrators were not as strong in numbers as they were in convictions.
Despite temperatures hovering around zero degrees Celsius, several hundred protesters marched through downtown Washington and past the White House. Smaller, noisier demonstrations took place elsewhere in downtown Washington.
Tuesday's march was organized largely by religious Christian groups, including Quakers and Unitarians.
"Let us march now... Peace, Salaam, Shalom. To the White House... Peace, Salaam, Shalom," chanted the protesters.
One of the event's organizers, 47-year-old Unitarian Pat Elder, acknowledged the protest rally would draw nowhere near the 100,000 people who participated in the previous anti-war demonstration held in Washington last October. He said, however, even a thousand protesters in each participating city would be enough to convey the anti-war message.
"But if you have 100,000 people - and 100,000 people are actually demonstrating, and praying, and congregating in cities across the country - and you have 100,000 people, say, in 100 different cities, maybe a thousand in each city - that, to me, is more demonstrative of a truly grassroots effort," he explained.
Meanwhile, journalists nearly outnumbered the 20 people who took part in a more raucous rally in Washington earlier Tuesday. That demonstration was organized in front of a U.S. Army Recruiting office by a coalition of activist groups calling themselves "Recruiters for Peace and Justice."
"Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation," chanted the protesters.
Six people were arrested for blocking the entrance to the building, but were later released.
In Chicago, police arrested about 20 people for criminal trespass. They were part of a small demonstration picketing outside a federal building in downtown Chicago.
In California, 50-year-old Pat Driscoll, president of the Sacramento chapter of Veteran's for Peace described his group's first direct anti-war action Tuesday.
"We had about 50 people, in total, show up," he said. "We had a speech regarding human rights because today is International Human Rights Day, and also covered the war on Iraq. And after the speech, nine people, including four veterans, blocked the entrance to the federal building."
Mr. Driscoll said the nine people were briefly arrested, given citations and then released.
Altogether, the group United for Peace counted more than 120 planned vigils, acts of civil disobedience and marches in 37 states, from Alaska to Texas.