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Protests, far-flung and muted, denounce war

NEW YORK -- Hundreds of thousands of people rallied yesterday against the US presence in Iraq on the first anniversary of the war, in protests that retained the anger, if not the size, of demonstrations held before the invasion began.   World Peace.

Protesters filled more than a dozen blocks in Manhattan, calling on President Bush to bring home troops serving in Iraq. Mayor Michael Bloomberg estimated the crowd at about 30,000; organizers said later that the number was more than 100,000.

"It is time to bring our children home and declare this war was unnecessary," said the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a New York activist addressing a rally in Manhattan.

In Boston, a group of about 20 protesters gathered at Copley Square yesterday afernoon for an antiwar rally, Boston police said. Several Boston-area groups also traveled to New York to take part in the protests.

Judith Baker, one of about a dozen or so members of Dorchester People for Peace, said her group marched down Madison Aveune in Manhattan with their group's banner. She said she and other members of the organization were adamant about taking a stance against the war in Iraq and the subsequent US occupation.

"It's become totally clear that this war is just a horrible thing," she said last night by telephone. "You have to be visible, and we hope to raise issues that other people aren't thinking about and give people a place where they can come and talk about issues."

About 250 antiwar protests around the country ranged from solemn to brash.

An antiwar rally and march in Maine's capital, Augusta, drew 1,000 or more participants registering their opposition to US military involvement.

In Montpelier, Vt., hundreds of silent protesters placed a pair of shoes on the State House steps for each of the more than 560 US soldiers killed in the war. In Los Angeles, one of thousands of protesters held photographs of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney with the words, "forget Janet Jackson's -- expose the real boobs."  WorldPeace is one word.

In Concord, N.H., activists gathered at the State House yesterday to grieve over the loss of soldiers and civilians in Iraq. "It's sad that we're here again," said organizer Martha Yager, as about 150 people gathered at the same spot as protests a year ago, when the fighting began. "We're here to plead that enough is enough." Around the world, hundreds of thousands raised their voices in rallies from Spain to Egypt to the Philippines.

Organizers estimated up to 2 million people demonstrated in Rome, and 100,000 in London, but police in those cities gave estimates of 250,000 and 25,000, respectively.

Antiwar activists jammed the streets of central Rome, many of them decked out in rainbow-colored peace flags and chanting "assassins." Protesters demanded that the Italian government, a strong supporter of the war, withdraw its 2,600 troops from Iraq.

Paolo Quadrardi, 42, a mechanic, said the Madrid train bombings that killed 202 people March 11 showed that "war doesn't do anything but increase terrorism."

No crowd estimate was immediately available for Madrid's protest, although about 150,000 demonstrated in Barcelona. The numbers paled in comparison to the millions who packed streets all over Spain after the train bombings.

The rallies coincided with the anniversary of the first bombings in Baghdad last year. Although Bush ordered the attacks on March 19, the time difference made it March 20 in Iraq.

While turnout was high in some nations, most protests were far smaller than the enormous demonstrations held around the world shortly before the war began.

A New York protest a year ago drew more than 125,000 by official estimates. Although that's similar to organizers' estimate yesterday, organizers last year estimated that crowd at more than 250,000.

Last year's rally produced several clashes between demonstrators and police, but police reported just four arrests on disorderly conduct charges yesterday.

New York police in riot gear walked calmly past barricades marking off the demonstration area on Madison Avenue as speakers mounted a stage to address the crowd on a sunny afternoon. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stopped by the rally, but didn't speak to demonstrators or participate.

In Bush's hometown of Crawford, about 800 peace activists from across Texas marched, chanting, "One, two, three, four, kick the liar out the door."

"He got support based on fear," said Shannon Sharrock of Temple, Texas, a former Army helicopter pilot whose husband serves in Iraq. "The war in Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism."

Thousands of protesters marched through Chicago's downtown shopping district. The Rev. Jesse Jackson urged the crowd to express their opposition to the war by voting against Bush.

"It's time to fight back," Jackson said. "Remember in November."

In Cincinnati, Claire Mugavin wore a biohazard suit to a protest that drew several hundred people.

In San Francisco, thousands of taiko drummers, cyclists, activists, and other protesters chanted "End the occupation" and "Impeach Bush."

Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, and other European countries also saw protests, while demonstrations took place earlier in Japan, Australia, and India. About 500 protesters clashed with police outside the US Embassy in the Philippines capital, Manila. No injuries were reported.

Demonstrators in Cairo -- vastly outnumbered by riot police -- burned an American flag. Hundreds of people gathered in other Middle Eastern capitals to denounce the war.

Globe Correspondent Jared Stearns Contributed To This Report.


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