AUGUSTA (AP) – Several hundred people turned out at the Maine State House on Saturday for a peace rally, criticizing U.S. military actions overseas.

As part of the event, demonstrators staged a two-mile march around Augusta near the capitol.

Along the way, close to three dozen counter-demonstrators lined a sidewalk on Western Avenue, waving U.S. flags and signs urging support for American troops.

Organizers of the State House rally, which was sponsored by a group known as the Coalition to Stop the War, said no civil disobedience was planned and counseled marchers to ignore any hecklers.

A similar demonstration at the state capitol in October, before the war with Iraq, drew a crowd variously estimated at 1,000 to 3,000 people.

The size of the crowd at the march and rally Saturday was pegged at about 500 by coordinator Tim Sullivan, while other estimates put it nearer 300.

As before, demonstrators gathered near a statue of Samantha Smith, the Maine schoolgirl who was internationally known for her advocacy of peace.

Speakers and other participants said U.S. command of Iraq would not still their voices.

“I think what we did was illegal,” said Rick Owens of Deer Isle, who had joined the capital demonstration last fall. “And just because it’s over doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t be held accountable.”

One demonstrator’s sign carried the message: “USA Democracy Not Empire.”

Special details of city, state and capitol police were on duty around the State House, along the marchers’ route and at the nearby Blaine House, where Gov. John Baldacci and his family served as hosts of a children’s Easter egg hunt Saturday morning.

The gathering at the gubernatorial residence was breaking up as demonstrators began to gather a few hundred yards away on the south side of the State House.



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