Washington (CNSNews.com) - "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Bush's war has got to go."
Chants from anti-war protesters rang throughout the nation's capital Saturday as demonstrators gathered outside the White House to express their displeasure with the war on Iraq.
Secret Service agents and U.S. Park Police closely watched the noontime protest in Lafayette Square, a site of frequent anti-war gatherings. No violence erupted and the crowd eventually dispersed after about an hour.
Eric Anderson of Washington, D.C., waved a Palestinian flag as he echoed the chants of protesters. He said he regularly attends the protests around the city to show his disapproval with U.S. policies in the Middle East.
"To me, this seems to be a war of conquest and colonization, rather than a defensive war as it has been sold to us," he said. "I hate Saddam Hussein, and I could have been sold on an effort to take him out, but that's not the motive for this war."
Oil is the motive, in Anderson's view. Several other demonstrators said Bush's ties to oil companies had more to do with the war than his desire to liberate the Iraqi people.
Anderson was part of a group that tried to persuade police to open Lafayette Square to the more than 200 protesters who had gathered there. About 20 minutes after the demonstration began, Park Police fenced off the area - letting protesters leave the park on their own will, but blocking several hundred people who were marching through downtown Washington from entering.
After repeated attempts to unite the various factions of protesters, the group that had gathered in front of the White House dispersed into the streets of Washington to join the march through city streets.
George Washington University law student Cory Shapiro was standing about a block from the White House in front of a fence guarded by police. He comes to various protests in Washington to watch as a legal observer, part of a program run by the National Lawyers Guild.
Police tactics Saturday were not nearly as bad as last fall during the International Monetary Fund and World Bank demonstrations, Shapiro said. Several hundred arrests were made during those protests. He was not aware of any arrests Saturday.
But Shapiro was critical of the police for restricting access to Lafayette Square, which borders Pennsylvania Avenue and has been closed to large demonstrations ever since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"There are plenty of violations on everyone's First Amendments rights, but we're just trying to watch the police to make sure they're following the correct procedures," he said. "We're here to witness what the police may or may not do."
The sunny, spring day attracted a variety of demonstrators, many carrying "No Iraq War" signs and some wearing "Impeach Bush" T-shirts. The antiwar group International ANSWER organized the protest.
John Bull, a U.S. military veteran who served in the first Persian Gulf War, hoisted a sign expressing his opposition to the war.
"I was against it from the beginning and I'm still against it now," he said. "This was a war that should have never started. There was a peaceful means to achieve what the U.S. wants to achieve, but without all the deaths."
Added Barbara Morland of Arlington, Va., who carried a bright yellow sign with "PEACE" written in huge letters across it: "We have attacked a nation that does not pose a danger to us. Our president has been dishonest; he continues to tell us there's a connection between Sept. 11 and Saddam Hussein, but there has been no evidence to demonstrate that."
Morland said it is just as important for antiwar demonstrators to come out and express their feelings now as it was before the war began.
Others, like Tricia Obester, a teacher from Arlington, Va., came to express their concerns about the news media's coverage of the war. Obester said Americans were never told the full story during the 1991 conflict, and she believes the media are not doing a good enough job this time either.
"When I turn on the radio, I here about the tragic casualties the American troops are suffering, yet we hear nothing about the hundreds of Iraqis that I'm sure are being killed," she said. "It's like there's a total gag on the media."
Not all the people who came to Saturday's protest were there to express their disapproval. Robert Fields of Manassas, Va., brought his young daughter, Virginia, to the rally to counter the protesters. He said he has been doing it since the 1960s.
"Sometimes I just like to make fun of them," he said, as his daughter held a map of the Middle East they were using to ask protesters to identify Iraq. "Some of them don't have a clue what the issues are."
Fields' daughter, Virginia, was equally as passionate.
"Now that we're in this war, we need to be supporting our troops, they need the U.S. backing them up," she said. "Nobody wants war, but I think it's crucial right now. Bush knows what's going on and I trust his judgment to do what's right for America."
On Sunday, Bush supporters plan to gather near the Lincoln Memorial for their own rally.
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