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Protest in Washington demands end to Iraq war
16/9/2007 11:34

Tens of thousands of protesters staged the first anti-war protest in this US capital since January yesterday, demanding an end to the Iraq war.

Holding black and yellow signs reading "End the War," protesters started to gather in the morning near the White House. The protest formally began at noon at Lafayette Park, on the north side of the White House, with speeches from at least two dozen speakers ranging from former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Ralph Nader to Washington Wizards player Etan Thomas.

Around 3:00 p.m., protesters began to march to the Capitol, where they staged a "die-in" with a mock 21-gun salute.

Police said dozens of protesters had been arrested without incident after they climbed over a waist-high metal fence erected at the base of the Capitol.

Cheered on by the crowd, more demonstrators were leaping over the fence every few minutes in the late afternoon and were being taken into custody.

Like the last major anti-war march in January, when tens of thousands marched to the National Mall, Saturday's event came at a tense time in the fractious debate over the U.S. mission in Iraq.

It came after this week's congressional testimony by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. President George W. Bush's announcement of a partial pullback of some 30,000 troops from Iraq by next summer. But Democratic leaders immediately criticized his plan for not providing either a plan to successfully end the war or a convincing rationale to continue it.

Saturday's event was organized by the ANSWER Coalition, which stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. The organizer estimated that 100,000 people attended the protest.

It will be followed by a week of "civil disobedience" in Washington intended to push the anti-war movement into a more confrontational phase, according to organizers.

Throughout the day, Bush was at Camp David, Maryland, and not at home to hear the protests.