WASHINGTON – Thousands of protesters – many directing their anger squarely at President Barack Obama – marched through the nation’s capital Saturday to urge immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
At least eight people, including activist Cindy Sheehan, were arrested by U.S. Park Police at the end of the march, after laying coffins at a fence outside the White House. Friday marked the seventh anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
At a rally before the march, Sheehan asked whether “the honeymoon was over with that war criminal in the White House” – an apparent reference to Obama – prompting moderate applause.
The protesters defied orders to clear the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House and park police say they face charges of failure to obey a lawful order.
Activist Ralph Nader told thousands who gathered in Lafayette Park across from the White House that Obama has essentially continued the policies of the Bush administration, and it was foolish to have thought otherwise.
“He’s kept Guantanamo open, he’s continued to use indefinite detention,” Nader said. The only real difference, he said, is that “Obama’s speeches are better.”
The protest drew a smaller crowd than the tens of thousands who marched in 2006 and 2007. Protests in cities around the country also had far fewer participants than in the past.
Protesters in Washington stopped at the offices of military contractor Halliburton – where they tore apart an effigy of former Vice President and Halliburton chief executive Dick Cheney – the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Washington Post offices.
Anna Berlinrut, of South Orange, N.J., was one of a number of protesters who have children who have served in Iraq, and said her son supports her protests.
“If there were a draft, we’d have a million people out here,” Berlinrut said when asked about the turnout. The exact number of protesters was unclear, as D.C. authorities do not give out crowd estimates. Organizers estimated the march, which stretched for several blocks, at 10,000.