WASHINGTON – Tens of thousands of anti-war activists rallied near the White House on Saturday, hoping that their voices would catalyze opposition in the rest of the country and force a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

“We are here … to show our government, to show our media, to show America that we mean business, and we’re not going home until every last one of our troops is home,” anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan said to cheers.

“Not one more should die,” she said with the White House at her back. Supporters chanted, “Not one more, not one more.”

Much of the anger in the crowd seemed aimed at President Bush. “Bush Lied, Thousands Died,” said one sign waved by a protester. “Making a killing,” said another, which bore a picture of a smiling Bush. “Yo Bush boy, it’s over,” said another.

Bush wasn’t in Washington. He was monitoring hurricane relief efforts at the military’s U.S. Northern Command headquarters in Colorado and then in Texas.

Organizers of the rally, the third mass protest since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, hoped to stir more anti-war sentiment, win over Americans unsure about the war and increase pressure on Bush and Congress to bring U.S. troops home.

“We are at a tipping point whereby the anti-war sentiment has now become the majority sentiment,” said Brian Becker, a coordinator for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, one of the groups that organized the rally.

Supporters of the Iraq war planned to push back with a rally on Sunday.

One organizer of the anti-war protest claimed that 250,000 attended the rally and marched around the White House. The area near the rally stage was often sparsely populated, but the streets around the Ellipse and White House were filled with thousands of people.

Washington Police Chief Charles Ramsey said Saturday that the rally “probably” reached its goal of 100,000 protesters. Protesters, many of them mothers and grandmothers, came by bus, car, plane and train on an overcast day to participate in a three-day program that will include a prayer service Sunday and culminate in lobbying members of Congress on Monday.

“I am trying to end the war,” said Judy Miller, 65, of St. Paul, Minn., who rode to Washington on buses with her daughter and about 150 people from her church. “I was here protesting before the war. It didn’t do much good then – maybe it will do some good now.”

Marge Gugerty of Aurora, Ill., a mother of two military sons, said she turned against the war because it wasn’t part of the war on terrorism. “They both joined up after 9-11 in a long line of family military service, to preserve and protect,” she said of her sons. “That’s not what the war in Iraq is.”

Margaret Lawrence, 73, came from San Diego with her husband, a Korean War veteran. “We love our kids more than Bush does and we want them home,” she said.

There were young people as well.

“This war was started on lies,” said Cristin Munro-Leighton, 26, a graduate student from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who blames Bush for the war. “There’s been no accountability and he’s committed impeachable crimes.”


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