LONDON – Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters marched through central London (search) Saturday, past the American Embassy (search), to mark the second anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Demonstrations were also kicking off in other cities around Europe.
The protests were nowhere near as big as those held in February 2003, just before the war, when millions marched in cities around the world to urge President Bush (search) and his allies not to attack Iraq.
With international forces still facing a violent opposition in Iraq, protesters were divided about what to demand from leaders now. While some wanted a full troop withdrawal, others argued that that would leave Iraqis in a worse position than before the invasion.
"We got the Iraqis into this mess, we need to help them out of it," said Kit MacLean, 29, waiting near Hyde Park's Speakers' Corner before the London march began.
Security was heavy as the demonstrators moved past the U.S. Embassy on their way to Trafalgar Square (search). Cement barricades and metal fences blocked the building, as they have since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In Istanbul, Turkey, an estimated 15,000 people marched in the Kadikoy neighborhood to protest the U.S. presence in Iraq.
"Murderer Bush, get out," read one sign.
Two marchers dressed like U.S. soldiers pretended to rough up another, who was dressed as a detainee with a sack on his head, a mimed criticism of prisoner abuse cases.
In the southern city of Adana, home to a Turkish military base used by American forces, protesters laid a black wreath in front of the U.S. Consulate to protest the war, the Anatolia news agency reported.
In Sweden, about 300 protesters filled up the Sergel square in downtown Stockholm, chanting slogans including "USA, Out of Iraq!"
"I think it's important to show that we still care about this," said Linn Majuri, 15, a member of the environmental organization Green Youth, who held a banner reading "Drop Bush, not bombs!"
"People have become apathetic about this, it's no longer something they walk around thinking about every day," she said.
Demonstrations were also planned in Rome; Oslo, Norway; and in nine Spanish cities including Madrid, Barcelona and the Basque seaside resort of San Sebastian.
British elections expected in May lent an added charge to the London protest. Prime Minister Tony Blair has been Bush's staunchest ally in Iraq, despite strong domestic opposition to the war, especially among members of his Labour Party.
Some at the protest said they couldn't support Blair but didn't know whom else to vote for. The opposition Conservatives strongly backed the war while the third-largest party, the Liberal Democrats, opposed it. Several smaller parties are running anti-war candidates in hopes of loosening Blair's hold on power.
"I think it's outrageous what Blair and Bush think they can get away with," said retiree John Salway, 59, who said he had marched in nearly every London protest since the fighting began. "I'd like to think we can put a dent in their arrogance."
Some demonstrators worried Bush might be planning another war in the Middle East or elsewhere.
"After Iraq — Iran? Syria? Cuba?" read one placard. "Stop This Man" said another, alongside a picture showing Bush with devil's horns.
One man carried fake bombs with American flags painted on them and a dartboard map of the world showed a U.S. missile sticking out of Iraq.