WASHINGTON (AFP) — Protesters on Wednesday launched sit-ins and marches across the United States as they marked five years of war in Iraq, demanding an immediate withdrawal of US soldiers.
Police in Washington arrested 33 people in front of entrances to the Internal Revenue Service, organizers and local media reported, as demonstrators sought to focus attention on taxpayers' money that bankrolls the deployment of about 158,000 troops in Iraq.
"This war needs to end and it needs to end now," Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, told AFP. "I think people are looking for new ways to express their opposition."
Anti-war groups planned other acts of civil disobedience throughout the US capital, seeking to disrupt traffic against "war profiteers" on K Street, known as the home of Washington's corporate lobbyists.
Demonstrators were targeting government agencies, lawmakers, oil companies and "corporate media" who they accuse of promoting and sustaining the war, organizers said in a statement.
"It's really time we end this occupation force and start making amends," said Rachel Payne, 19, who joined a small demonstration in front of the American Petroleum Institute not far from the White House.
As protesters banged drums with police looking on, Payne held up a sign reading "What's our exit strategy?"
Hundreds of protest events were planned nationwide, including vigils and larger rallies in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami.
The demonstrations come as the death toll of US soldiers approaches 4,000 in a war that remains unpopular among American voters.
Although attendance at anti-war demonstrations has declined in recent years, organizers of Wednesday's events said they were confident of attracting large crowds to the marches.
Public disapproval of the war has yet to translate into massive waves of street demonstrations in the United States like those seen during the Vietnam war.
While the war remains unpopular, with a majority of Americans calling the decision to invade a mistake, public opinion is divided over when to withdraw the US soldiers deployed in Iraq.
The demonstrations come after a new poll for British television showed more than two-thirds of Iraqis believe US-led coalition forces should leave.
In New York, protesters from the Granny Peace Brigade were to hold a "knit-in" at the Times Square military recruitment center that was targeted in a home-made bomb attack earlier this month.
The grandmothers were to knit stump socks for amputee veterans and baby blankets for Iraqi families.
"We grannies hope to highlight our message demanding an end to this useless and catastrophic war," said Barbara Walker, 74, among the group's members arrested when they tried to enlist in the military in 2005.
In Chicago, a rally and protest march was to be held in the central business district while in Louisville, Kentucky protestors will read aloud the names of some of the nearly 4,000 US troops killed and the Iraqi civilians killed and displaced.
Protestors in Dallas, Texas will perform skits, play music and hear Iraq veterans speak against the war on the grassy knoll overlooking the plaza where president John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Some 4,000 empty T-shirts will be strung along a street in Cincinnati, Ohio to memorialize the US soldiers killed.
On the west coast, the focal point of protests in Los Angeles will be a military recruitment center in the heart of Hollywood, said the ANSWER coalition, or Act Now To Stop War And End Racism. The demonstration follows a weekend rally where about 2,000 people marched to protest the war.
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