Reuters reported early Thursday that "More than 200 people were arrested across the United States on Wednesday as protesters marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq obstructed downtown traffic and tried to block access to government offices," including the IRS "to highlight the cost of the war."[1]  --  The report said that 62 were arrested in Washington, D.C., and 143 in San Francisco.  --  The New York Times, which has mostly ignored the peace movement during years of war and occupation, devoted an article to the protests, calling them "sometimes subdued" and observing that "attendance was lighter and the acrimony more muted than at protests in the early years of the war."[2]  --  In addition to those mentioned by Reuters, "[s]mall numbers of arrests were also reported in Syracuse, Hartford, and Chicopee, Mass."  --  An article in the Washington Post on the fifth-anniversary protesters observed that "there weren't that many of them" and said that "yesterday's 12-hour protest of the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war created only minor disruptions across Washington and appeared to have been among the smallest such demonstrations in the city since the war began."[3] ...


By Andy Sullivan

March 20, 2008

WASHINGTON -- More than 200 people were arrested across the United States on Wednesday as protesters marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq obstructed downtown traffic and tried to block access to government offices.

There were 32 arrests in Washington after demonstrators attempted to block entrances to the Internal Revenue Service, while 30 others were arrested outside a congressional office building, police said.

Protesters had hoped to shut down the IRS, the U.S. tax collection agency, to highlight the cost of the war. Police cleared the building's entrances within an hour.

In San Francisco, long a center of anti-Iraq war sentiment, police arrested more than 100 people who protested through the day along Market Street in the central business district, a spokesman said.

Sgt. Steve Maninna said officers had arrested 143 people on charges including trespassing, resisting arrest and obstructing traffic.

Four women were also detained for hanging a large banner off the city's famous Golden Gate Bridge and then released, said bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie.

On Washington's National Mall, about 100 protesters carried signs that read: "The Endlessness Justifies the Meaninglessness" and waved upside-down U.S. flags, a traditional sign of distress.

"Bush and Cheney, leaders failed, Bush and Cheney belong in jail," they chanted, referring to U.S. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

One hour after the IRS standoff, several dozen protesters waved signs that read: "Stop Paying to Kill" and "How Much Longer?" as a ragtag brass band played. IRS employees were easily able to enter the building.

"We wanted to put our bodies between the money and what that money goes to fund -- the war, the occupation, the bombs," said Frida Berrigan, an organizer with the War Resisters League.

The war has cost the United States $500 billion since the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein began in March 2003 and is a major issue in November's U.S. presidential election. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and millions more displaced, with almost 4,000 U.S. soldiers killed.


Later, scores of noisy protesters blocked a busy intersection in Washington's business district. They picketed in front of the offices of the Washington Post and threw red paint on the building that houses the Examiner newspaper and Bechtel National Inc, which has handled major reconstruction projects in Iraq.

In New York, about 30 members of the "Granny Peace Brigade" gathered in Times Square, knitting in hand, to demand troops be brought home now.

"We're out here to show people that this war is madness. We never should have gotten into this war in the first place," said Shirley Weiner, 80.

Police in Boston arrested five people who blocked access to a military recruitment center by lying on a sidewalk dressed as slain Iraqi civilians, an Iraqi mourner, a slain U.S. soldier and an American citizen in mourning.

"We went to this military recruiting station today because we want to see the war end immediately," said activist Joe Previtera in a statement. "Silently waiting for Congress to act on this war in 2009 will condemn thousands more people to injury and senseless death. Enough is enough."

(Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert and Donna Smith in Washington, Adam Tanner in San Francisco and Emily Chasan in New York; editing by Peter Cooney)


By Jessie McKinley

New York Times
March 20, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO -- Crowds of protesters rolled through cities across the nation on Wednesday in a series of largely peaceful, and sometimes subdued, marches on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

While there were more than 140 arrests in San Francisco and more than 30 in Washington, attendance was lighter and the acrimony more muted than at protests in the early years of the war.

In San Francisco, where an estimated 150,000 people took to the streets in 2003, about 500 protesters roamed early Wednesday, many in costume and chanting amid the clamor of a makeshift marching band. In the evening, a larger crowd marched peacefully outside City Hall.

While the banners and bullhorn rhetoric were strident, the mood among some was pessimistic.

“The war is not going to end,” said Bob McGee, 67, from Livermore, about 50 miles east of the city. “It doesn’t matter who wins the election. The only thing that’s going to stop it is the destruction of the economy.”

Across the bay in Berkeley, the antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan spoke to about 100 people in front of a Marine recruiting station, the site of a recent fight between those on both sides of the war. But there, too, protesters seemed less full-throated than in the past.

Adam Beach, 40, said he and his wife had opposed the war from the beginning, but conceded that he felt discouraged. And, he added, “those feelings are shared by a lot of people.”

In Washington, 32 people were arrested outside the I.R.S. after they crossed police barricades and tried to block an entrance. Small numbers of arrests were also reported in Syracuse, Hartford, and Chicopee, Mass.

Many of the day’s protests were so calm that some people brought their children.

“I feel like there’s more and more dissent, even in Congress, but I’m not so sure that I trust them to represent the people’s will,” said Stephanie Alston, 33, who brought her 9-month-old daughter, Calliope, to the San Francisco march. “And it’s already five years too late.”

--John H. Cushman Jr. contributed reporting from Washington, and Carolyn Marshall from Berkeley, Calif.


By Michael E. Ruane

** Fewer Than 1,000 Protest, 33 Arrested In Scattered Displays in the District **

Washington Post
March 20, 2008
Page B01

There was a brass band of protesters dressed in green. There was a woman in a pink bed being pushed through busy downtown D.C. intersections. There were demonstrators in black who lay down in the middle of the street.

But in the end, there weren't that many of them, and yesterday's 12-hour protest of the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war created only minor disruptions across Washington and appeared to have been among the smallest such demonstrations in the city since the war began.

Fewer than 1,000 people participated, according to rough head counts from the various events.

The Federal Protective Service arrested 32 people at the Internal Revenue Service building, charging them with attempting to enter a federal installation without proper documentation and blocking entry. D.C. police said they arrested one person for crossing a police line, but officers seemed to go out of their way to avoid arresting people, at one point routing traffic around a knot of activists camped on L Street.

"It's nothing we want to do," said Capt. Jeffrey Herold of the special operations division. "As long as I can keep traffic moving around them, we don't want to take action like that."

Organizers downplayed the low turnout. "This is a different type of action than the peace movement has done before," said Ted Glick of the No War, No Warming Coalition. "It's more edgy. . . . We think this is actually an important step forward for the peace and justice movement."

But demonstrator Gary Krane, of Oakland, Calif., expressed dismay.

"The apathy of my fellow Americans is very frightening, very horrific," he said. "I thought there would be hundreds if not thousands of people getting arrested."

There were a few incidences of vandalism. Demonstrators threw rocks and bottles filled with red paint that splattered outside a military recruiting center on L street and at the 15th Street offices of Bechtel, a U.S.-based company that has done contract work in Iraq.

The protest, which was dampened by rain in the afternoon, made up for scant numbers with energy, mobility and noise.

Augmented by the drums and brass of the social justice-oriented Rude Mechanical Orchestra and the activities of the antiwar group Code Pink, with its rolling four-poster bed decorated with placards reading "Wake Up America," bands of demonstrators roved across downtown Washington from sunrise until dusk.

They targeted the IRS building at 8 a.m., at 12th Street and Constitution Avenue, blaming the agency for its role in funding the war. They hoped to shut it down.

"The idea is to say, 'How about calling this a vacation day?' to the employees," said protester Ed Hedemann, 63, from Brooklyn, N.Y. "We want to disrupt business as usual, to call attention to the horror of this ongoing war. Something needs to be done. Marches and rallies are good, but they don't seem to be sufficient, so some of us are escalating our tactics -- nonviolently, of course."

But the building remained open. Police said the protesters caused no major disruptions.

Later, about 200 activists gathered outside the American Petroleum Institute at 13th and L streets NW.

Carrying signs reading "No Blood for Oil" and chanting, "More justice, more peace, U.S. out of the Middle East," demonstrators tried to block the intersection but were pushed to the sidewalks by police. Protesters also tried to close the intersection by stringing green tape across the streets, but police tore it down.

Motorists honked their horns, sometimes in frustration, sometimes in support.

"People are trying to get to work," Herold told Alix Davidson, a member of the group, as cars whizzed through the intersection. "They're not interested in what you're doing. They're going to [hit] the people that get in the street."

About 10 a.m., demonstrators did manage to shut down the intersection at 17th and L streets NW for about an hour.

Eight women clad in black robes, head scarves, and flesh-colored masks bound their arms together with what appeared to be cardboard tubes covered in black tape. While activists chanted on the street corners, police used bolt cutters and a power saw to slice through the tubes and separate the women.

Officers took the activists out of the intersection and sat them on a curb. No one was arrested.

Meanwhile, about 100 people with Veterans for Peace marched down Constitution and Independence avenues, stopping traffic along the way. Some jumped a fence and scaled a wall at the National Archives to read excepts from the Constitution over a bullhorn to schoolchildren waiting to get inside.

"I think I realized that I have to speak out against this war when I lost a very close friend [and] it became personal," said Daniel Black, 25, a Marine Corps veteran from South Orange, N.J., who said he served in Kuwait and Iraq. "I couldn't walk away."

--Staff writers Petula Dvorak and Sue Anne Pressley Montes contributed to this report.