Anti-War Rallies Mark Iraq Anniversary
NEW YORK (AP) _ Thousands of anti-war protesters took to the streets around the world Saturday, marking the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq with demands that coalition troops leave immediately.
Wael Musfar of the Arab Muslim American Federation addressed more than 1,000 people who gathered in Times Square near a military recruiting station, which was guarded by police.
``We say enough hypocrisy, enough lies, our soldiers must come home now,″ Musfar said from a parked flatbed truck. Participants chanted, ``Stop the U.S. war machine, from Iraq to Korea to the Philippines.″
Many attendees emphasized that they support the troops. ``I have friends in Iraq and I just want them to know that I may not be able to support them there, but I can here,″ said Jose Avila, 36.
At a demonstration in Chicago, 33-year-old Ryan Stiles defended President Bush’s policies in Iraq.
``I support freeing Iraqis from tyranny,″ he said. ``I came here to show there are Americans who support what Bush is doing in Iraq.″
Protests also were held in Australia, Asia and Europe, but many events were far smaller than organizers had hoped. In London, police said 15,000 people joined a march from Parliament and Big Ben to a rally in Trafalgar Square. The anniversary last year attracted 45,000 protesters in the city.
``We are against this war, both for religious reasons and on a humanitarian basis, too,″ said Imran Saghir, 25, a Muslim student who attended the London rally.
Britain, the United States’ strongest supporter in the Iraq war, has about 8,000 troops in Iraq but plans to pull out 800 of them by May. The British military has reported 103 deaths there. More than 2,300 American troops have died.
In Washington, a protester wearing a President Bush mask and bearing fake blood on his hands waved to passing automobiles outside Vice President Dick Cheney’s residence, where about 200 people demonstrated against the war.
Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ said the rallies nationwide are a ``tapestry of resistance.″
``Most people believe we aren’t crazy anymore,″ he said.
In Concord, N.H., nearly 300 peace activists marched about a mile from a National Guard armory to the Statehouse.
``I feel a huge sense of betrayal that I went and risked my life for a lie,″ said Joseph Turcott, 26, a former Marine who served in the invasion.
At Dudley Square in Boston, a few hundred college-age protesters and baby boomers waved placards that read ``Impeach Bush″ and ``Stop the War.″
``It seems like we are fighting a King George in the same way General Washington fought a King George, who was equally imperialistic,″ said Askia Toure, a poet and activist.
Several thousand demonstrators, hemmed in by police in riot gear, marched down Michigan Avenue in Chicago late Saturday.
``I’m against this war, I’m against the torture,″ said Martha Conrad, 54.
Protesters in San Francisco danced in the streets, beat drums and carried signs that read ``Stop U.S. Imperialism.″
``It’s very painful to me that our country is doing this and killing innocent people,″ said 70-year-old Joan Emerson, who attended with the group Old Lesbians Organizing for Change.
Protesters in several cities worldwide carried posters showing pictures of President Bush, calling him the ``World’s No. 1 terrorist.″
In Turkey, where opposition to the war cuts across all political stripes, about 3,000 protesters gathered in Istanbul, police said. ``Murderer USA,″ read a sign in Taksim Square.
In Stockholm, Sweden, about 1,000 demonstrators gathered for a rally and march to the U.S. Embassy. One protester was dressed as the hooded figure shown in an iconic photograph from the Abu Ghraib prison. ``We do not need Abu Ghraib democracy, or Guantanamo Bay freedom,″ said Eftikar Hashem Alhusainy, addressing the rally.
In Copenhagen, Denmark, more than 2,000 demonstrators marched from the U.S. Embassy to the British Embassy, demanding that Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen withdraw the 530 Danish troops from southern Iraq.
On Sunday, up to 3,000 protesters were expected in Seoul, South Korea, which has the third-largest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq after the U.S. and Britain.
Britain’s defense chief earlier urged demonstrators in London to support the Iraqi people and condemn terrorism.
``When people go on the streets of London today, I do wish just occasionally they would go out in support of the United Nations, the Iraqi people and the Iraqi democrats and condemn terrorists,″ Defense Secretary John Reid told British Broadcasting Corp. radio during a visit to Iraq.
Members of the Stop the War Coalition, the organizers of the London march, had little sympathy for Reed’s remarks.
``Every day you hear of new deaths. Tony Blair has actually made Iraq a worse place for the Iraqi people,″ said Rose Gentle, whose soldier son Gordon, 19, was killed by a roadside bomb last year in Basra, southern Iraq.
Associated Press Writer Sue Leeman contributed to this report from London.