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Washington Anti-War Protest Includes Relatives of Soldiers Killed in Iraq

As the first anniversary of the U.S.-led war against Iraq approaches, American military families, veterans and peace activists held a procession to honor and mourn those killed there. Relatives of American soldiers killed in Iraq were among the protesters.

About 80 demonstrators marched eight kilometers through Washington in a mock funeral procession from the Walter Reed military hospital to the park in front of the White House.

The numbers were small, but the somber and peaceful protest drew people from around the country, including Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Arizone.

In front of black funeral wreaths, with the White House in the background, activists read aloud the names of those killed in Iraq, both Americans and Iraqis.

Monday's demonstration was organized by a group called "Military Families Speak Out," which represents about 1,000 military families who want President Bush to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

One such relative, Jean Prewitt, came from Birmingham, Alabama. She says she has never before been an outspoken protester, but this time came to honor her son, Private Kelley Stephen Prewitt, who was killed outside of Baghdad last April.

Ms. Prewitt adds that she initially supported President Bush and the Iraq war. "I did. Even when Kelley was killed, I did. I wasn't angry," he said. "I was just devastated and heartbroken, but I didn't blame anybody. I thought it was the right thing. I certainly don't now."

She says her anger was recently sparked by the failure, in post-war Iraq, to find weapons of mass destruction. "After we found out, after all these months, that [President] Bush had lied. There were no weapons like he said," he said.

Prior to the war the Bush administration cited intelligence that weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq.

A handful of counter-protesters also gathered for a short time nearby at both Washington locations. They accused the anti-war demonstrators of being unpatriotic.

Monday's event was the culmination of two days of anti-war demonstrations that started on Sunday, when some 250 military family members and other activists gathered near Dover Air Force Base in the U.S. state of Delaware. The base is home to the largest U.S. military mortuary, where the bodies of more than 550 American soldiers who died in Iraq have been returned.