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Protesters march on Iraq anniversary

  • Story Highlights
  • Protests, arrests and scuffles mark war's fifth anniversary in several U.S. cities
  • San Francisco police say 115 people were arrested for misdemeanors
  • 50 protesters engaged in shoving matches with cops near White House, police say
  • Organizer: At least 31 people arrested after crossing police lines outside IRS building
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Several hundred anti-war protesters marched through Washington on Wednesday's fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, splattering red paint on government offices and scuffling with police.

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An anti-war demonstrator is arrested in New York on Wednesday.

Protesters, including many veterans, demanded the arrests of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as war criminals. Others hurled balloons full of paint at a military recruiting station and smeared it on buildings housing defense contractors Bechtel and Lockheed Martin.

Colby Dillard, who held a sign reading, "We support our brave military and their just mission," pointed to some red paint that one of the war protesters had splattered on the sidewalk.

"The same blood was spilled to give you the right to do what you're doing," Dillard, who said he served in Iraq in 2003, told The Associated Press.

"This has happened throughout the downtown area throughout the day," Metropolitan Police Capt. Jeffrey Herold said.

At least 31 people were arrested after crossing police lines outside the Internal Revenue Service building on Pennsylvania Avenue, protest organizer Freida Berrigan said. Several were released Wednesday afternoon.

Organizers of Washington's protests said that about 500 demonstrators had registered to attend but that "hundreds and hundreds more showed up," said Leslie Cagan, national director of the anti-war group United for Peace and Justice.

Protests also took place in San Francisco, where 115 people were arrested and released after being cited for misdemeanors such as trespassing, resisting arrest and blocking an intersection, said Sgt. Steve Mannina, a police spokesman. Video Watch protesters in the Bay Area »

Demonstrators split up into several groups under overcast Washington skies throughout the day, though the weather forced two events to be canceled, organizers said.

About 50 protesters of an estimated 250 engaged in shoving matches with police at McPherson Square, about two blocks from the White House, as officers tried to push them out of K Street traffic. About 20 others blocked traffic around K Street and Connecticut Avenue by chaining their hands together inside school desks, demanding more money for education and less spending on the war.

They dispersed after police didn't move in to arrest them, declaring victory by shutting down the street.

But most participants were peaceful, and some had a comic bent. The activist group Code Pink pushed a pink bed on wheels down the street, urging Americans to "wake up," and one demonstration featured a trailer with an effigy of Bush riding a cartoon bomb.

More serious, members of the "Granny Peace Brigade" delivered boxes of hand-knitted "stump socks" -- meant to keep the ends of amputated limbs warm -- to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Workers there suggested that they donate the boxes to the USO instead.

Laurie Wolberton of Louisville, Kentucky, whose son just finished an Army tour of duty in Iraq, told The Associated Press she fears that the worsening U.S. economy has caused Americans to forget about the war.

"We're not paying attention anymore," she said. "My son has buried his friends. He's given eulogies; he's had to go through things no one should have to go through, and over here, they've forgotten. They just go shopping instead."

Bush ordered U.S. troops into Iraq on March 19, 2003, after months of warnings that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was concealing stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and efforts to build a nuclear bomb. U.N. weapons inspectors found no sign of banned weapons before the invasion, and the CIA concluded that Iraq had dismantled its weapons programs in the 1990s.

Nearly 4,000 Americans have died in Iraq since then, and estimates of the Iraqi toll range from about 80,000 to 150,000 or more. Nearly 160,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, and the war has cost U.S. taxpayers about $600 billion, according to the House Budget Committee.

Speaking on the war's anniversary, Bush said Hussein's removal has left the world better off and the United States safer. He said that last year's buildup of American troops has helped quell the sectarian warfare that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006 but that "there is still a lot of hard work to be done."

But the conflict is now widely unpopular at home: A CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll released Wednesday found that only 32 percent of Americans support the conflict. And 61 percent said they want the next president to remove most U.S. troops within a few months of taking office.

Outside the National Archives, anti-war protesters laid a large cloth on the ground with the preamble to the U.S. Constitution drawn on it. The placement forced people to walk over the text in order to enter the building. Video Watch war protests in the nations's capital »

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Also in front of the Archives was a masked man dressed in orange prison clothing, kneeling with his hands tied behind his back. A sign in front of him read, "no torture, no secret prisons, no detention without legal process," referring to several contentious issues tied to the war.

And about 70 people marched from Arlington Cemetery in Virginia to the Vietnam War Memorial, where they read the names of victims from that conflict. The group also visited the State Department, where many of them played dead by "freezing" themselves in various poses. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Larry Lazo, Paul Courson, Evidge Jean-Francois, Jim Spellman, Jerry Thompson and Chuck Afflerbach contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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