Chanting "Off Iraqi soil, no blood for oil," scores of anti-war protesters rallied in Minneapolis Saturday demanding an end to the U.S. occupation of troops in Iraq.
With flags and banners waving amid various proclamations of peace, Meredith Aby, a member of the local Anti-War Committee, said a majority of American citizens want the war over.
"People need to get out in the streets and demand change. Just saying the war is unpopular is not enough," Aby said. "People should think more critically how this government beats the drums for war."
Instead, protesters banged their own drums as they marched and shouted phrases including, "(President) Bush lies, thousands die, troops home now," under overcast skies and a brisk chill from Uptown to Loring Park.
Traffic along Hennepin Avenue slowed occasionally as numerous passing vehicles honked in support. No arrests were made.
Similar anti-war rallies were held Saturday across the country to mark the war's fifth anniversary. More are scheduled through next week.
Many at Saturday's rally in Minneapolis clearly remember when the United States bombed Baghdad on March 19, 2003 and President Bush warned, "We will accept no outcome but victory."
"I'm fed up with the rhetoric and the violence," said protester Kyle Anderson, 23, of Minneapolis. "I'm tired of our politicians running for office skirting around the issue, too. How much longer are we going to be over there?"
Holding a sign that read, "Either War is Obsolete or Are We?," Alesia Casanova, 18, of Eden Prairie, pondered the same question.
"It's really sad that it's gone on this long," Casanova said. "Our voices need to be heard. This has to stop. Now."
Attendee Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said that "the real fight" is right here at home with climate change and the declining national economy.
"We must change the way we live," Rybak said.
Organizers said nearly 1,800 people participated in the two-hour event, while police estimate closer to 1,000. Either way, several marchers thought attendance was lower than in previous years.
"I wish more were here," said Tyrus Thompson, 18, of Minneapolis, a member of Youth Against Racism and War. "I wish they knew how much power we actually have."
As Dick Thompson of Minneapolis stood waving a U.S. flag upside down (a military sign for distress) and carrying a red sign that said, "Impeach," near a bridge at Loring Park, he, too, wanted a larger turnout.
"I'm in distress," Thompson, 74, said. "Because, clearly, the truth has not been told."
Terry Collins • 612-673-1790