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Christians Gather in D.C. to Protest War

Thousands of Christians Gather in Washington, Pray for Peace During Protests Against Iraq War

Jordan Schmidt, of Leesburg, Va., an anti-war protester, holds a candlelight vigil with others outside the White House in Washington, Friday, March 16, 2007. An estimated 3,000 protesters march from the National Cathedral to the White House to protest the military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

By SARAH KARUSH

WASHINGTON Mar 17, 2007 (AP)— Thousands of Christians prayed for peace at an anti-war service Friday night at the Washington National Cathedral, kicking off a weekend of protests around the country to mark the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq.

Afterward, participants marched with battery-operated faux candles through snow and wind toward the White House, where police began arresting protesters shortly before midnight. Protest guidelines require demonstrators to continue moving while on the White House sidewalk.

"We gave them three warnings, and they broke the guidelines," said Lt. Scott Fear. "There's an area on the White House sidewalk where you have to keep moving."

About 100 people crossed the street from Lafayette Park where thousands of protesters were gathered to demonstrate on the White House sidewalk late Friday. Police began cuffing them and putting them on buses to be taken for processing.

Fear said 222 people had been arrested by Saturday morning. The first 100 were charged with disobeying a lawful order, and the others with crossing a police line. All of them were fined $100.

The windows of the executive mansion were dark, as the president was away for the weekend at Camp David in Maryland.

John Pattison, 29, said he and his wife flew in from Portland, Ore., to attend his first anti-war rally. He said his opposition to the war had developed over time.

"Quite literally on the night that shock and awe commenced, my friend and I toasted the military might of the United States," Pattison said. "We were quite proud and thought we were doing the right thing."

He said the way the war had progressed and U.S. foreign policy since then had forced him to question his beliefs.

"A lot of the rhetoric that we hear coming from Christians has been dominated by the religious right and has been strong advocacy for the war," Pattison said. "That's just not the way I read my Gospel."

The ecumenical coalition that organized the event, Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, distributed 3,200 tickets for the service in the cathedral, with two smaller churches hosting overflow crowds. The cathedral appeared to be packed, although sleet and snow prevented some from attending.

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