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Thousands of women protest war in Iraq

WASHINGTON—Several thousand women clad in pink marched near the White House Saturday to protest against war in Iraq and to urge President Bush to back down from his threatened war against Saddam Hussein.

The colorful Washington march, staged under sunny skies in spring-like temperatures, represented what organizers called a Code Pink for peace, hoping it would contrast with the government's color-coded alerts against terrorist threats. Protestors ranged from schoolgirls to grandmothers.

The crowd, estimated by organizers at between 5,000 and 7,000, stretched along several city blocks as it wound its way along the streets near the White House.

"We're taking to the streets because Bush refuses to listen," said Kristi Laughlin of Oakland, California, one of the organizers. "He's determined to go to war, but we're here to bring the voices of women and children to demand peace, and to demand a non-violent solution."

Protestors sang songs such as Give Peace a Chance, chanted refrains such as, "This is what democracy looks like," and carried signs including, "Drop Bush, not bombs," "No Bombs on Iraqi Moms, and "Blessed are the Meek, Cursed are the Warmongers." Several carried signs thanking France for opposing war.

They were kept far from the White House. Uniformed Secret Service guards and U.S. Park Police expanded the secure area around the White House, refusing to let the marchers enter Lafayette Park across the street from the executive mansion or onto Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the house. Marchers walked around the complex to the Ellipse.

Most protestors said when asked that they oppose Saddam Hussein, but that they believe there are peaceful ways to contain him or force him to disarm.

Many said they were resigned that Bush has made up his mind for war.

"I don't think we'll change his mind, but maybe we can change the minds of other people," said Elisabeth Curtis of Carrboro, N.C., a member of a local chapter of a national group called Raging Grannies.

Many also said the war would take money away from other domestic priorities. "There are plenty of other things like unemployment we should focus on," said Lynn Hasselbarch, a sophomore from the University of Michigan.

The Washington march was one of several demonstrations in the United States and around the world using International Women's Day as a stage to protest war. In Tokyo, thousands of anti-war demonstrators marched as their government signaled its support for Bush.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.