WASHINGTON -- Dismayed peace activists kept a tense vigil outside the White House yesterday, calling on President Bush to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.
From Boston to San Francisco, demonstrators chained themselves to buildings, blocked bridges and burned flags. Hundreds were arrested, some in confrontations with supporters of the war.
At a news conference in Lafayette Park across from the White House last night, anti-war leaders urged Americans "to take to the streets."
"Meaningful social change in this country has always required protest in the streets," said Jim Driscoll, a Vietnam War veteran. "We are veterans, we are family members, we are clergy. This movement has always been a mainstream movement . . . and the American flag is our symbol. We need thousands of people in the streets, and we need to do it non-violently."
In small towns, too, there were actions. In Greensburg, Pa., 150 students were suspended after boycotting classes at Hempfield Area High School to protest what they viewed as political apathy on the part of administrators. In Athens, Ohio, 103 people were arrested during demonstrations. In Georgia, legislators walked out of the State House after a colleague began condemning the U.S. bombing of Baghdad.
Throughout the day, stunned anti-war demonstrators kept watch on the White House -- as if by their mere presence and passion they might will a stop to the war.
On the first day of war, dozens of people -- both for the war and against it -- found themselves drawn to Lafayette Park, known among activists as Peace Park. Retirees, fresh-faced high school students, old hippies, buttoned-down office workers, tourists and immigrants all came to this shrine of social action to try to put the events into perspective.
The setting was a study in contrasts. Fifteen-year-old Maddrey Coover leaned over a police barricade and offered the peace sign as a red car wrapped in American flags and loaded with young men yelled "Victory" and "Support our brothers."
Dana Lane, a 40-year-old hair stylist from Denver who said she had never before protested, continued the third day of a fast and focused her thoughts on her 23-year-old son, Andre Sanders, who is stationed in Saudi Arabia. "There's one reason I'm here," said Ms. Lane. "His name is Andre."
A few feet from Ms. Lane stood the relatives of other soldiers assigned to Operation Desert Storm: a wife, a nephew, a son. They had come to lend support to their own.
"It's time we showed our support," said Sheryl Wegmann, 44, whose husband is stationed in the Persian Gulf. "I'm disgusted by what I see here. What you've got are a bunch of radicals who only want to protest. They're unaware of what's going on."
Against a backdrop of familiar, sing-song chants ("Make love, not war" and "Give peace a chance") was heard a contemptuous jeer from a passing car: "Get a job, hippie, get a job."
A Gallup Poll of 895 adults questioned after President Bush's television address Wednesday night showed that 79 percent approved of the U.S. decision "to go to war against Iraq."
In past weeks, thousands of anti-war demonstrators have taken their concerns to the nation's streets. Tomorrow, in what is likely to be viewed as the first test of the strength of the blossoming anti-war movement, the Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East will lead a national march on the White House.
Organizers said tens of thousands of people from across the nation were expected to attend the 11 a.m. rally, which is to include speeches by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, actress Tyne Daley, social activists Dick Gregory and Daniel J. Ellsberg, radio personality Casey Kasem, rapper Queen Latiffa and former New Mexico Gov. Toney Anaya.