By Justin M. Norton, Associated Press Writer
Saturday, March 19, 2005
(03-19) 18:14 PST San Francisco (AP) --
Thousands of anti-war protesters took to the streets of San Francisco and other American cities Saturday, chanting slogans, stopping traffic and carrying cardboard coffins to commemorate the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
In San Francisco, thousands of demonstrators rallied in Dolores Park in the city's Mission district, holding up posters with photographs of slain U.S. soldiers and carrying signs with slogans such as "No to War for Capitalist Profits." The protesters then marched to San Francisco City Hall for another rally.
"This is a war of aggression," said Ed McManus, 54, a Marin County resident who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War but only recently began protesting the Iraq War. "Bush has admitted by his actions and his deeds that he is a war criminal."
The San Francisco march was one of hundreds of anti-war demontrations around the country on Saturday — two years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein. At least 1,519 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.
In Los Angeles, a spirited march through Hollywood drew more than 1,500 people in a light rain.Among the sea of banners and signs was one bearing a scowling image of President Bush and the word "warmonger."
Protester Adrienne Burk, who had an American flag draped over her shoulder, said she would never send her 21-year-old son to "fight for someone else's folly."
Burk, who works in movie advertising, pinned a paper sign to the flag that read: "I am a patriot and I want my troops back."
In New York City, hundreds of protesters, some carrying cardboard coffins draped in American flags, gathered at armed forces recruiting stations and demanded that U.S. troops be brought home.
"I'm here to chastise the government for putting us in the middle of a bloody and disgusting war," said Veronica Momjian, 25, protesting in Manhattan. "Things are looking worse and there's no foreseeable end to this."
In Chicago, hundreds of police, some in riot gear, escorted about a thousand marchers down Dearborn Avenue to an afternoon rally at the Federal Plaza. Police were out in force to prevent a repeat of the scene two years ago when thousands of protesters caused a huge traffic jam during rush hour.
Demonstrators originally planned to march on Michigan Avenue, but with police threatening to arrest anyone who tried, the demonstration moved to a park a few blocks away.
"They don't want to show the size of the opposition," said protester Earl Silbar of Chicago. "It's a free country if you agree with the government."
The protests in San Francisco just after the war began in 2003 were among the most vocal and angry in the country, with thousands of arrests and frequent conflicts between police and demonstrators. Many protesters were detained only to return immediately to the streets, and police claimed that the protests were costing the city upward of $900,000 a day in overtime and other costs.
Sammy Kitmotto, 31, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley was arrested for blocking an intersection during the 2003 protests and has continued protesting the Iraq War in the ensuing years.
"You've got to devote yourself to the struggle and find people who feel the same way," Kitmotto said. "If I was opposing this alone it would be more disheartening."
Organizers expected robust demonstrations Saturday but were encouraging civility. Nonetheless, police lined the San Francisco streets clutching protective helmets and wearing long batons. Eight people were arrested for blocking an intersection, according to police.
Protesters passed a woman dressed up like the famous photo of the hooded prisoner from Abu Ghraib prison. The woman was surrounded by demonstrators wearing masks of Condoleeza Rice, George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld dancing to the song "Shout" by the Isley Brothers.
The weekend began with a controversy over the Board of Supervisors' decision to commemorate everyone who has died in the Iraq war, regardless of nationality, by flying the flag above City Hall at half-staff.
Mayor Gavin Newsom denied the request, arguing that the flag should be flown at half-staff only when a prominent local figure dies or by order of the president or governor. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who sponsored the resolution to protest the United States' involvement in Iraq, denounced the decision as "deplorable."
Ruth Kuntzman, 19, a student at California State University, Long Beach, drove seven hours from southern California to attend the march with friends, listening to 1980s political punk rock like the Dead Kennedys for the entire drive.
"If you're not active, and if you don't fight, it makes things much worse," Kuntzman said.
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