More than 100 anti-war protesters, including Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, were arrested outside the White House in demonstrations marking the eighth anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
The protesters, some shouting anti-war slogans and singing “We Shall Not Be Moved,” were arrested Saturday after ignoring orders to move away from the gates of the White House. The demonstrators cheered loudly as Mr. Ellsberg, the former military analyst who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon’s secret history of the Vietnam War that was later published in major newspapers, was arrested and led away by police.
In New York City, about 80 protesters gathered near the U.S. military recruiting centre in Times Square, chanting “No to war” and carrying banners that read, “I am not paying for war” and “Butter not guns.”
Similar protests marking the start of the Iraq war also were organized Saturday in San Francisco, Chicago and other cities.
In California, hundreds of people marched in downtown San Francisco. Hundreds more, including students from more than 40 high schools and community colleges, marched in Los Angeles in protest of the U.S. presence in Iraq, organizers and police said.
Some used the rallies to draw attention to the new military action in Libya.
“You can’t stand by and watch people being slaughtered. At the same time you don’t want to foster war. It’s walking a very fine line,” Bishop Otis Charles told KCBS-TV at the San Francisco protest.
The demonstration in Washington merged varied causes, including protesters demanding a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as those supporting Bradley Manning, the jailed Army private suspected of giving classified documents to the website WikiLeaks.
One chant that was repeated was- “Stop the War! Expose the Lies! Free Bradley Manning!”
Mr. Manning is being held in solitary confinement for all but an hour every day at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. He is given a suicide-proof smock to wear to bed and is stripped naked each night. On Sunday, a protest will be held in Quantico, outside the brig where Mr. Manning is being held.
Mr. Ellsberg has publicly defended Mr. Manning, calling him a “brother”.
Hundreds of protesters attended the rally and marched around the White House, but the crowd - which included many military veterans - thinned considerably as the U.S. Park Police warned that they’d be arrested if they didn’t move. As officers moved in with handcuffs, one protester who clutched the gates outside the White House shouted, “Don’t arrest them! Arrest Obama!” and “You’re arresting veterans, not war criminals!”
Authorities said 113 protesters were arrested, processed and given violation notices for disobeying an official order. They could pay a small fine and be released, or be freed with a future court date.
“The majority were cooperative,” said U.S. Park Police spokesman David Schlosser.
One military veteran who showed up for the rally was Paul Markin, a 64-year-old retired U.S. Army colonel from Massachusetts who said he’s frustrated by what he sees as the U.S. government’s escalation of the wars. He said he’s been against wars since coming home from Vietnam.
“Ever since that time, I’ve gone to the other side. Instead of a warrior, an anti-warrior,” Mr. Markin said.
Ralph Nader, a consumer advocate who’s unsuccessfully run several times for president, attended the demonstration and said anti-war protesters needed to continue putting pressure on government leaders. He said he believed most Americans and even soldiers agreed with the views of the protesters
“I believe they reflect the majority opinion of the soldiers in Afghanistan,” Mr. Nader told The Associated Press. “This is a majority opinion movement.”
There was little talk at the D.C. protest of the U.S. missile strikes against Moammar Qadhafi’s forces in Libya on Saturday, part of an international effort to protect rebel forces.
But the Times Square demonstration that was meant to mark the eighth anniversary of the Iraq invasion quickly became a protest against Saturday’s military strikes.
Gary Maveal, 57, a law professor from Detroit who was visiting the city for a conference, said he feared the Libyan attacks would become a “quagmire.”
” We don’t have a good record of getting out of anywhere in a hurry,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Charles Rangeljoined the protesters, saying he was angry that Congress was not consulted before the military strikes. He said he was undecided on whether the military action against Libya was justified.
“Our presidents seem to believe that all we have to do is go to the U.N. and we go to war,” Rangel said as a large television behind him at the recruiting station showed an advertisement for the Air Force with crews loading missiles onto fighter jets.
“Going to war is not a decision that presidents should make,” he added.