100,000 in Iraq war protest rally

Crowds opposed to the war in Iraq surged past the White House, shouting "Peace now" in the largest anti-war protest in the US capital since the invasion.

The rally stretched through Saturday and into the early hours of Sunday, a marathon of music, speeches and dissent on the National Mall.

Police Chief Charles Ramsey, noting that organisers had hoped to draw 100,000 people, said, "I think they probably hit that." Speakers from the stage attacked President George Bush's policies head on, but he was not at the White House to hear them. He spent the day in Colorado and Texas, monitoring hurricane recovery.

In the crowd were young activists, nuns whose anti-war activism dates back to Vietnam, parents mourning their children in uniform lost in Iraq, and families motivated for the first time to protest.

A few hundred people in a counter demonstration in support of Bush's Iraq policy lined the protest route near the FBI building.

Folk singer Joan Baez marched with the protesters and later serenaded them at a concert at the foot of the Washington Monument.

An icon of the 1960s Vietnam War protests, she said Iraq was a mess and the troops needed to come home immediately: "There is chaos. There's bloodshed. There's carnage."

The protest in the capital showcased a series of demonstrations in foreign and other US cities. A crowd in London, estimated by police at 10,000, marched in support of withdrawing British troops from Iraq.

In Rome, dozens of protesters held up banners and peace flags outside the US Embassy and covered a pavement with messages and flowers in honour of those killed in Iraq, Scotsman reports.

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