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Saturday, 26 October, 2002, 23:39 GMT 00:39 UK
Americans rally against war in Iraq
Protestors march in front of the White House
It was one of the largest such protests since the Vietnam War

Tens of thousands of protesters came to Washington from across the United States in one of the largest anti-war demonstrations since the Vietnam War.

The crowd filled Constitution Gardens within sight of the Vietnam War Memorial and spilled out along the reflecting pool before marching to the White House.

I'm ashamed of what my government is doing

New Hampshire protester
They came from across the country, some travelling all day and night crowded onto buses to attend the rally.

They wanted to counter the image and the polls that say a majority of Americans support a war against Iraq.

Passionate opposition

Jean Hinton and Steve Phlegar flew for 12 hours to make the trip from Yuma Arizona.

He said that the administration's new policy of pre-emptive military action is un-American and felt it important to come to the anti-war rally.
Muslim student Sana Malik demonstrates against war in Iraq
Student Sana Malik says the Iraqi people are suffering daily under sanctions

"It's one thing to sit around in your living room and talk about it, and it's another thing to show some public support and participate," Mr Phlegar said.

Four students in the sea of people carried signs saying "Nebraskans for Peace."

They left Lincoln Nebraska at 0738 on Friday, and some 26 hours later hit Washington. They might have arrived earlier had their bus not broken down.

One of the students, Aaron Price, is 18. He fears a new draft and doesn't want to fight a war he does not support.
Protest placard: 'America does not own the world'
Katherine Albrecht condemned US arrogance in its foreign policy

His friend Jonathan Jones said little will be gained by attacking Iraq and feels such an attack is unjust and immoral.

"It's just going to cause a lot more disaster and destruction," he said.

Katherine Albrecht came with others on a bus from Manchester, New Hampshire. "We really felt strongly enough about it to spend a night on a bus," she said.

"I'm ashamed of what my government is doing. I'm ashamed of our elected leaders," she said.

"I wanted to send a message not only to them but to the world that not all Americans are behind this," she added.

Get out the vote

In a reference to President Bush's stated goal of ousting Saddam Hussein, many protesters carried signs saying, "Regime change begins at home. Vote."

Critical mid-term elections are set for 5 November.

Regime change begins at home. Vote!

Common protest slogan

Republicans and Democrats are locked in a fierce battle for control of Congress, and a few key races will decide the balance of power.

The late Paul Wellstone was in the toughest race of his Senate career. He, his wife and their daughter were killed in an airplane crash Friday.

Many in the crowd carried signs paying tribute to the late senator and mourning his death.

Lisa Collins of Reston, Virginia, said that Senator Wellstone was a true liberal, a true Democrat who was not bought out by special interests.

"He'll be greatly missed," she said. "We need more leadership like that, people who will stick with their principles."

Although his Republican opponent tried to paint him as soft on national security, Senator Wellstone voted against the resolution authorising the use of force against Iraq.

Lies, damn lies and polls

Many of the protesters questioned polls showing that a majority of Americans support a strike against Iraq.

Some accused pollsters and the media of interviewing only war supporters.

When Celia Gayer's member of Congress came to her town on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, people turned out 100-to-1 against the war.
Axis of Evil: Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld
Protestors had their own 'Axis of Evil'

Yet, they voted to support the resolution authorising force against Iraq.

"They're cowards. They don't have enough faith in their constituents," she said.

She said they feared "the Bush propaganda machine" would use a no vote against them in the elections.

One protestor carried a sign decrying WMD. No, not weapons of mass destruction, but rather weapons of mass distraction.

Many protesters felt that the drive for war was motivated by the administration's desire to distract voters from domestic problems such as unemployment, a moribund economy and corporate scandals.

Medea Benjamin of the group Global Exchange said, "I think the president has done a very cynical manipulation of the genuine fear people feel after September 11."

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See also:

26 Oct 02 | Americas
25 Oct 02 | Americas
24 Oct 02 | Middle East
22 Oct 02 | Middle East
18 Oct 02 | Middle East
08 Oct 02 | Americas
26 Oct 02 | Middle East
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