WASHINGTON – Anti-war leaders urged Americans to show their opposition to U.S. military strikes against Iraq by participating in walkouts and protests nationwide.
"George W. Bush has unleashed an all-out war against Iraq," the International ANSWER coalition said in a statement posted on its Web site Wednesday night shortly after the United States began strikes inside Baghdad. "We join with peace-loving people all over the world in resisting and acting to stop this brutal, illegal and criminal war of aggression."
The Shirts Off Coalition called for a march of resistance and bike race against war in Washington Thursday to bolster its anti-war campaign.
The call for protests, walkouts and marches Thursday followed a day of intense anti-war rallying by people in small towns, big cities and rural outposts decrying war just hours before the United States began its attack.
"I am very ashamed to be an American right now," Lydia Riley, 63, of Washington said Wednesday at a protest in Washington. "There's been nothing but lies and misrepresentations by the Bush administration."
Riley joined about 200 demonstrators, some wearing red dye on their faces and clothes to represent anticipated Iraqi civilian casualties, blocking rush hour traffic as they marched from a park near the White House to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's house in Northwest Washington.
John Parrish, 44, of Silver Spring, Md., called the president's stance on Iraq "absurd."
"Making a pre-emptive strike sets a bad example to the rest of the world," said Parrish. "What if Pakistan did a pre-emptive strike against India? They can say, 'the United States does it, why can't we?"'
Demonstrators were arrested after sitting down on the street in front of the White House and blocking entrances to government buildings in other cities.
Other protests were staged in New York, Boston, Utah, Chicago, Minneapolis, Ohio, Delaware, Maryland, Detroit, Wisconsin, Arkansas and Nevada .
Outside Rumsfeld's house, the crowd pleaded "Show your Face," and held bloodstained baby-size coffins in the air while chanting, "You have blood on your hands."
In Carson City, Nev., hundreds of flag-waving veterans and others gathered outside the state's legislative building to back U.S. military personnel poised to attack Iraq.
"We must not, we cannot, we will not allow the voice of dissent to tear our nation apart again," said Ray Alcorn, a retired U.S. Navy captain who spent seven years as a POW in North Vietnam. "The silent majority must become the vocal majority."
Also Wednesday, following a prayer vigil, 27 protesters were arrested after climbing over a temporary metal fence separating the park from Pennsylvania Avenue.
In New York City, protests in downtown Manhattan Wednesday drew about 300 people.
Calling it a "Code Pink" emergency, nine women wearing nothing but pink masks protested the war against Iraq on Wednesday.
The women, who carried a banner that read "Women of the World Say No War" and with the words "No War" painted in pink on their backs, stopped traffic. The women also had pink paint covering their private parts.
Many of the protests were part of nonviolent anti-war demonstrations around the nation by the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, a coalition of 55 peace groups in the United States.
In Atlanta, about 30 people gathered in heavy rain just before midnight, quietly holding signs that read, "War is not the answer."
In Washington state, several hundred people showed up at peace demonstrations in Seattle and Olympia. Eleven protests were arrested when they refused to leave a mall at closing time.
In Salt Lake City, protests gathered outside the federal building following the initial strike on Baghdad and said they plan to camp out there indefinitely.
In Raleigh, N.C., about 50 people gathered outside the state capital to protest in a chilly rain.