Herald news services
WASHINGTON – From college students and grandmothers to business people and toddlers, thousands protested America’s war on terrorism Saturday, a day originally marked for massive demonstrations against the policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the two financial organizations canceled their annual meetings here because of security concerns. At that point, organizers changed the focus of their protest from anti-globalization to anti-war, and a new wave of demonstrators from around the country packed into vans and buses for Washington, D.C., supporting peace as they marched to the Capitol.
Most estimates put the number of marchers at about 10,000.
Marching to chants of “No war” and “While we still can, stop the war in Afghanistan,” the demonstrators were loud and defiant. The protest was mostly peaceful, although dozens of police in riot gear were a commanding presence. Several arrests were made, police said.
At one point, officers used pepper spray to control a few rowdy participants. Assistant police chief Terrance Gainer was hit with the spray and taken to a hospital to have his eyes flushed out. He returned soon after to direct police operations.
A few blocks away, a group of about 70 counterdemonstrators assembled near the Navy Memorial with American flags and signs reading “Shame for Disturbing a City in Mourning.”
Among them was Chuck Ricca, a 47-year-old businessman from Denville, N.J., who said two of his neighbors worked in the twin towers and are missing.
“I wish these protesters would do something to help their fellow citizens,” Ricca said. “It seems like they hate this country.”
A peace rally in San Francisco, meanwhile, drew close to 5,000 people Saturday to a park. Besides opposition to U.S. military retaliation, the demonstrators voiced concerns over racism, civil liberties and other issues.
In Los Angeles, some 300 demonstrators gathered in front of the federal building.