Thousands of people marched in Rome (search) Saturday to demand the release of an Italian journalist kidnapped in Iraq.

"Free Iraq, Troops out of Iraq," read one banner as the crowd made its way from Rome's (search) main train station along a boulevard skirting the Colosseum (search).

The march had been planned before the release of a video Wednesday showing the journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, pleading for Italians to pressure their government to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

The hostage's father said he was heartened as he watched hundreds gather for the march. He calls it "the nicer part of these anguished days."

Two newspapers predicted a turnout of 200,000, but the crowd seemed far smaller. Organizers said some 2,000 journalists had pledged to turn out for the rally.