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Anti-War Protesters Tie Up New York Streets - 2003-03-27

Demonstrators tied up Fifth Avenue, one of New York's main thoroughfares, during the morning rush hour to protest the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Protesters have been holding anti-war rallies, some large, some small, at various New York City locations for weeks. But all have been peaceful and most have received official permission ahead of time.

These demonstrators bypassed police barricades in what they are calling a "Die In" to symbolize Iraqi war victims.

To make their point, dozens lay across Fifth Avenue, stalling traffic at one of New York's busiest mid-town intersections during the early morning rush hour. They remained lying across the avenue, known for its glamorous shops and tourist sites, until police officers picked them up. More than 140 people were arrested.

The protesters say blocking traffic is a sure way to get New Yorkers to hear their message.

"This is a wrong war for many reasons," one demonstrator said. "I think it is bad strategy. It is a bad expenditure of our dollars. Seventy-five more billion dollars could add more cops to the street. It could enhance security here at home, at the ports, airports. It is just a matter of: is this the right way to make us safer? I do not think it is."

About 300 activists lined the sidewalks, some draped in black, holding a "mock funeral." Protest organizers say they chose the site, by New York's Rockefeller Center, because it is home to many large corporations, including media organizations. Some supporters of the war also turned out, clashing with the anti-war demonstrators.

"I am supporting my president, my government and my troops," said a pro-war demonstrator. "I have to believe that they know more than me. I have to believe that they are doing the right thing."

The "Die In" was part of a day-long series of civil disobedience actions across the city. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly says the demonstrations are costing the city millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent on making the city safer.

City officials say heightened security since the beginning of the war in Iraq is costing cash-strapped New York at least $5 million extra a week, which they say it is necessary because New York remains a major target for terrorists.