SAN FRANCISCO – Activists angered by President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq staged anti-war demonstrations in several major cities Thursday, protesting that the buildup will cause more bloodshed and give insurgents new American targets.
Jan Rogers, 58, was among several hundred people who gathered in a bustling San Francisco shopping area, then held a march during rush hour. She watched Bush's televised speech Wednesday night and said he "doesn't seem to get it."
"The rest of the country is shouting, 'Stop this insanity,' and I think he's just trying to save his presidency and his legacy. But he's just on the wrong path," Rogers said.
Law student Zahra Billoo, 23, advocated an immediate troop withdrawal.
"I think our only presence at this point needs to be humanitarian aid. No more armed soldiers — they're not wanted there," she said.
In New York, Tony Palladino protested in Lower Manhattan's Foley Square with a pair of anti-war signs. The former Air National Guardsman said the new troops would just give insurgents "20,000 extra targets."
Rallies were also planned in Boston and some other cities.
In Times Square, hundreds of anti-war protesters crammed onto a traffic island, chanting "Stop the funding, stop the war" as drivers in one of the world's most famous intersections honked in support.
Some demonstrators held signs depicting the president as a monkey. Others sold buttons that said "Peace."
Pat De Angelis said Bush's plan to add more troops would be counterproductive to peace in the Mideast.
"In times of trouble, like the time we are in now, it helps to feel like you are doing something to right the wrongs," she said.
A band of pro-war protesters on the other end of the island yelled for passers-by to ignore the anti-war rally. The group held a large sign that said "Warning — Leftist protesters trying to demoralize our troops."
"They say they are supporting our troops, but they are lying," said Pamela Hall, a member of the United American Committee. "You can't support someone if you don't support what they are doing. It's disrespectful."
In San Francisco, turnout was decidedly lower than the crowd of 15,000 that organizers had predicted, but they said protesters were merely spread out among other events throughout the Bay Area.
Anti-war activists have marshaled more than 100,000 protesters at U.S. rallies on a few occasions since the run-up to the Iraq invasion. But the vast majority of demonstrations have been far smaller than those of the Vietnam era.
Anti-war groups and scholars say that's because the draft has been eliminated and because protesters appear more willing to work within the political system — a sharp contrast from the 1960s, when many protesters regarded the system as corrupt.
Thursday's protests were cast as a prelude to a bigger gathering starting Jan. 27 in Washington, where demonstrators plan to urge Congress to stand up to Bush, said Hany Khalil, a spokesman of United for Peace and Justice.