MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – About 200 bundled-up activists braved the January chill on Saturday to protest what many believe to be the illegal U.S.-led war in Iraq and to demand that the troops be brought home immediately.

Some of the speakers called for the immediate cut off by Congress of funding for the war, while others railed against what they saw as a war for oil.

About a dozen empty pairs of military boots sat on the steps in front of the speakers to symbolize the sacrifice of the young people who are fighting the war. Some carried signs with slogans such as “Stop Bush” and “Enough – 3025,” which referred to the number of U.S. deaths in Iraq. A few carried American flags. There was at least one United Nations flag.

“I am so sick of hearing ‘why don’t you support the troops?”‘ said Iraq war veteran Drew Cameron, now a student at the University of Vermont. He said he served in Iraq for six months in 2003. “I am the troops and I have never felt support from this government.”

Cameron said he went to war without body armor and in unarmored military vehicles. He said he had to buy his own soap while in Iraq.

“So stop slapping yellow ribbons on your car and show true support and bring them home,” Cameron said.

The Vermont rally, organized by PeaceVermont, Central Vermont Peace and Justice and other organizations, was in anticipation of a national rally scheduled for next weekend in Washington, said organizer Debra Stoleroff, of PeaceVermont.

Saturday’s rally will free up Vermonters to attend the Washington rally and as a way to allow those who can’t go to Washington next week to show their opposition to the war, Stoleroff said.

“It’s to put a face on Vermonters (opposed to the war) so our Congressional members can see their constituents want them to bring the troops home,” said Stoleroff.

U.S. Marine Sgt. Liam Madden of Bellows Falls, an Iraq veteran who has been an outspoken critic of the war, spoke. He said Saturday was his last day in the Marine Corps.

“That makes today the last day I am bound to serve a government that does not serve its people,” Madden said. “It is… an opportunity to underscore the urgency with which we must carry out our collective mission of peace.”

The rally was a way for people to unite in their opposition to the war.

“A lot of people feel like they’re very alone and this is one of those great ways people get to hear their neighbors’ voices,” said Jim Malloy, 37, Plainfield, who joined the march that preceded the rally. “It’s a great expression to come through the streets with our quirky signs and singing our songs.”

Dave Gardner, 58, of Middlesex said it was the first rally he had attended.

“I don’t approve of the continuation of this war. It’s time to bring this to a close,” said Gardner. “It’s time, now that we’ve got Democrats (in Congress) maybe something will finally change,” Gardner said. “I am more optimistic that there’s change in the air.”