Washington Crowds opposed to the war in Iraq surged past the White House on Saturday, shouting "Peace now" in the largest anti-war protest in the nation's capital since the U.S. invasion.
The rally stretched through the day and into the night, a marathon of music, speechmaking and dissent on the National Mall. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, noting that organizers had hoped to draw 100,000 people, said, "I think they probably hit that."
Speakers from the stage attacked President Bush's policies head on, but he was not at the White House to hear it. He spent the day in Colorado and Texas, monitoring hurricane recovery.
In the crowd: young activists, nuns whose anti-war activism dates to Vietnam, parents mourning their children in uniform lost in Iraq, and uncountable families motivated for the first time to protest.
While united against the war, political beliefs varied. Paul Rutherford, 60, of Vandalia, Mich., said he is a Republican who supported Bush in the last election and still does - except for the war.
"President Bush needs to admit he made a mistake in the war and bring the troops home, and let's move on," Rutherford said. His wife, Judy, 58, called the removal of Saddam Hussein "a noble mission" but said U.S. troops should have left when claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction proved unfounded.
"Bush Lied, Thousands Died," said one sign. "End the Occupation," said another. More than 1,900 members of the U.S. armed forces have died since the beginning of the war in March 2003.
Thousands of people attended smaller rallies in cities on the West Coast, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Franciso and Seattle.
In Washington, a few hundred people in a counter demonstration in support of Bush's Iraq policy lined the protest route near the FBI building. The two groups shouted at each other, a police line keeping them apart. Organizers of a pro-military rally today hoped for 10,000 people.
Folk singer Joan Baez marched with the protesters and later serenaded them at a concert at the foot of the Washington Monument. An icon of the 1960s Vietnam War protests, she said Iraq is already a mess and the troops need to come home immediately. "There is chaos. There's bloodshed. There's carnage."
Cindy Sheehan, the California mother who drew thousands of demonstrators to her 26-day vigil outside Bush's Texas ranch last month, won a roar of approval when she took the stage in Washington. Her 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in Iraq last year.
"Shame on you," Sheehan admonished, directing that portion of her remarks to members of Congress who backed Bush on the war. "How many more of other people's children are you willing to sacrifice?
She led the crowd in chanting, "Not one more."