Published October 25, 2003
WASHINGTON – To chants of "Impeach Bush," thousands of anti-war protesters rallied in the nation's capital Saturday and delivered a scathing critique of President Bush and his Iraq policy.
Demanding an end to the U.S.-led occupation and the quick return of American troops, the demonstrators gathered on a sunny fall day at the Washington Monument (search) to listen to speeches and songs of peace.
One man's small cardboard sign gave his summing-up of the day: "This administration does not represent me," it said in black capital letters typewritten on white paper.
The Rev. Al Sharpton (search), a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, exhorted the crowd not to be content with the gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
"Don't give bush $87 billion, don't give him 87 cents, give our troops a ride home," Sharpton said to loud cheers from the crowd.
Hundreds of anti-war protesters also took to sun-drenched streets in San Francisco.
"We feel it's very important to keep our voices heard because we want our troops home," said Bill Nelson, a Burbank, Calif., bookstore owner. "We want the money here for health care and jobs, not a military industrial complex."
The rallies on both coasts were organized by International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (search)) and United for Peace and Justice.
The protest in Washington drew a diverse crowd — young, old, veterans, relatives with loved ones in the armed forces and American Muslims. An activist group of older women called the Raging Grannies (search), singing anti-Bush songs, brought whoops of agreement from the protesters.
Organizers estimated that 100,000 people turned out for the demonstration, but police at the scene put the number much lower, from 10,000 to 20,000. Police no longer issue official crowd estimates, so the size of the protest could not be verified.
Waving signs reading "Make Jobs Not War" and "Bush is a liar," the protesters marched from the White House, down toward the White House, on to the Justice Department and then back to the Washington Monument.
But the activists weren't afforded the symbolic satisfaction of yelling protests to the White House gates, because the Secret Service put up barriers to keep them from marching directly in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Bush was spending the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.
Michael McPhearson, a veteran from the 1991 Persian Gulf War (search), denounced the president, saying he had misled the nation. "You have butchered the truth, George Bush."
The D.C. chapter of Free Republic, an independent grass-roots conservative group, gathered dozens of people at the U.S. Capitol to show support for Bush and the troops in Iraq.
"Whether or not the war should have started is a moot point," said Eric Campbell, a 32-year-old who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. "We have to stay if anything for the Iraqi people."