National Anti-War Protests Mark 4th Anniversary Of U.S. Invasion Of Iraq

Monday, March 19th 2007, 9:01 am
By: News On 6

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ The fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq brought thousands of anti-war marchers into the streets for largely peaceful protests over the weekend, though a large rally in Portland ended in with scuffles and police using pepper spray.

``This is a war to establish U.S. hegemony,'' said Susan Hay, a high school teacher, who marched Sunday in Portland with her two children and husband. ``This is a war to be able to consume everyone else's resources.''

The clashes with police started after the march, when a small group broke off in scuffles and a standoff that lasted into the evening. At least half a dozen protesters were detained and police used pepper spray at one point.

Some said the police overreacted. ``They showed a huge amount of force,'' said Jake Fagan, 21, who said he had lost two friends in Iraq. ``But we are just trying to march.''

Organizers said there might have been as many as 15,000 people at the staging point for the march. Police did not give a crowd estimate.

In San Francisco, about 3,000 people closed Market Street, a major downtown thoroughfare in an anti-war demonstration Sunday. In New York, more than 1,000 protesters converged in a park near the United Nations headquarters. Protesters also gathered during the weekend in Washington, Los Angeles, San Diego and Hartford, Conn.

``Our Constitution guarantees the right to peacefully express one's views,'' White House spokesman Blair Jones said of the protests. ``The men and women in our military are fighting to bring the people of Iraq the same rights and freedoms.''

On Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the decision to go to war in Iraq but acknowledged an initial failure to send enough troops to handle the civil unrest after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Asked on CBS's ``The Early Show'' what the administration could have done better, Rice replied, ``I don't know. When we look back over time we will know the answer to that question.''

``I do believe that the kind of counterinsurgency strategy in which Gen. (David) Petraeus is now pursuing, in which we have enough forces to clear an area and hold it, so that building and governance can emerge, is the best strategy,'' she said.

In New York, police lined sidewalks for the blocks-long procession as protesters carrying signs reading ``Impeach Bush,'' and ``Not one more dollar, not one more death.'' marched toward the offices of Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Actor Tim Robbins, speaking at a rally organized by the New York chapter of United for Peace and Justice, told the crowd that getting Congress to cut off funds for the war ``would be a good way'' to get the troops home.

``The American people want this war to end,'' said Robbins, a frequent anti-war protest participant. ``That's the message they sent last November in the election. When are we going to start listening to them?''

No counter-demonstrators were obvious in New York, as they had been at an anti-war rally in Washington on Saturday that drew thousands to the Pentagon and Lincoln Memorial.

In San Francisco, the protest there had stretched for blocks through the financial district. A police spokesman said the department no longer estimates crowd sizes, but at least 3,000 protesters appeared to be in the march's closing rally.

Chants of ``Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!'' echoed among the skyscrapers as marchers beat drums, danced and carried banners pushing an array of progressive causes.

``I think the war effort at this point is futile,'' said Gary Fong, 65, a former Army intelligence officer. ``We want to do our part to express to Bush and the government that change needs to be made.''

A smattering of counter-protesters waving American flags also gathered in what they described as a show of support for U.S. troops.

``It's important to make sure that the sacrifices that we've already made are worth it,'' said Leigh Wolf, 20, a San Francisco State University student. ``This is a war we can still win.''