Anti-war march draws thousands to downtown

Anti-war march draws thousands to downtown »Play Video
A young girl flashes peace signs as marchers pass by during Sunday's peace march.

PORTLAND, Ore. - Marking the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, thousands poured into downtown Portland for an anti-war protest.

The majority of the event seemed peaceful, though there were some brief skirmishes between protesters and counter-demonstrators. Police stepped in and broke up one of the confrontations involving an American flag.

Organizers enlisted the help of about 40 volunteer "peacekeepers," who were the first line of defense against any unruly protesters. They wore yellow shirts and planned to step in first in case protesters strayed off the scheduled route or started to cause other problems.

For those watching the march, it took about 45 minutes for all of the demonstrators to pass.

Police appeared to remain on the fringes of the route. Early on during the event, Portland police Chief Rosie Sizer was seen walking through the crowd, shaking hands and talking with demonstrators. 

Portland police said they arrested three people at Southwest Park and Morrison after a group pulled an officer off of a bicycle and tried to pull the officer into their group. Hours after the rally ended, officers also arrested about 12 more people. All faced various charges of harassment, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief.

The message that organizers brought to the rally was "Stop the War, Bring the Troops Home Now!"  The action was planned by a coalition of organizations representing students, veterans, military families, faith communities, labor unions and peace and social justice groups, and is connected to a national day of action promoted by the national coalition, United for Peace and Justice.

Some speakers talked about their anger that despite electing Democrats to Congress, those legislators aren't doing enough to bring the troops home.

Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi-Palestinian writer, said the war has become one of the occupiers versus almost everyone else in the country, with only a small number of Iraqis collaborating with U.S. forces.

The war "is happening because of the occupation, not in spite of it," Jarrar said.

"There are Iraqis who can rebuild their country," he said. "They don't need someone to come from thousands of miles away to tell them how to treat their neighbor. They are the only ones who can end this violence."

At least one man carried a sign in support of the war. The sign said "Real Americans Don't Cut and Run." There were also other confrontations occurring between counter-demonstrators and protesters along the route of the march.

The event started at the South Park Blocks about 2:30 p.m. A number of booths there provided literature on problems in Somalia, Iran and the Darfur region. People were also provided information on how to contact their Congressperson to voice their opinion about the war.

The Portland protest was one of several around the country over the weekend.

The crowd numbered in the thousands. Organizers said there might be as many as 10,000 people lined up for a 24-block march beginning and ending at Portland's South Park Blocks.