Hundreds of American protesters marched in San Francisco Friday to mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Antiwar groups staged an earlier protest in Los Angeles, and that other demonstrations on both sides of the issue are planned in U.S. cities for Saturday. In San Francisco, demonstrators converged on the headquarters of Bechtel Corporation, a major contractor in the reconstruction of postwar Iraq.
As President Bush, in Washington, called on the world to remain united in the war on terrorism, San Francisco marchers chanted "Health Care, Not Warfare."
The previous evening, two pacifist groups set out 560 combat boots at a Los Angeles protest to symbolize the U.S. troops who have died in Iraq. The demonstrators also piled up shoes to represent the Iraqis who died in the fighting, as they demanded the U.S. troops come home, in speeches and in song.
Speakers also demanded that President Bush focus his attention on domestic issues like education. Fernando Suarez del Solar, the father of a 20-year-old lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps who was killed in Iraq last March, said, "American people need education, school, no more military in the school. We need the boys in the school, not in the war."
The demonstrations have been smaller than those one year ago, when the war in Iraq was starting. The protests have also met with a mixed response from onlookers, some dismissing them as partisan politics.
Veterans groups have gathered to support the U.S. troop presence and the rebuilding effort in Iraq. In East Los Angeles, they honored the many Hispanic immigrants who are serving in the armed forces of their adopted country.
"There are no greater soldiers, there are no more valiant individuals than individuals that adopt a new country. And it is that strength, it is that will or fortitude, it is that power of an individual family that we must pay respect to," said Ruben Traviso, who belongs to a group called the American GI Forum.
Another speaker said the U.S. troops have started a mission and need to finish it.
Antiwar activists say on Saturday more than 200 protests are planned around the United States to mark the anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.