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Thousands of Anti-War Protesters March to Site of Republican Convention


Click here to view video of protesters in St. Paul
taken by VOA's Sandra Lemaire

Thousands of people rallied outside the Republican Party national convention on Monday, protesting the war in Iraq and the policies of the Bush administration. The march was mostly peaceful, but some small groups of protesters created disturbances and confronted police, and several people were arrested. VOA's Lisa Ferdinando is in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Protesters marched from the capitol building in downtown St. Paul to the arena where the Republican Party national convention opened Monday in an abbreviated session.

Young and old, and parents with children participated in the march. They carried signs with slogans such as "Say No to War," "U.S. Out of Iraq" and "Support the Troops, End the War." Police in riot gear stood watch as demonstrators made their way through the streets.

They marched around the security perimeter surrounding the convention site. Some protesters vandalized property, and police dispersed them.

Among the marchers was 27-year-old military veteran James Gilligan with the group, Iraq Veterans Against the War. He called for changes in health care and the treatment of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's a damn shame that a veteran can go ahead and serve for his country, go into battle, watch his brothers and sisters fall around him, come home, and, if he doesn't want to go again, he's kicked out of the military," said James Gilligan.

The Iraq war has been a dominant issue in the presidential campaign. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama has called for U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq, while Senator John McCain, who will be formally nominated at the convention as the Republican candidate, favors keeping American forces in Iraq as long as necessary to secure the country.

Lou Alvarado, a resident of St. Paul, took part in the march.

"I want the world to take notice that people are against the war," said Lou Alvarado. "People here in Minnesota are against the war and against the Bush administration. We don't go along just to go along and get along. I'm here to let my voice be known and let it be heard and put the message out."

The protesters also demonstrated for stricter environmental policies and for better health care, and against the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.