Antiwar protesters rally worldwide
March 15 ? _Hundreds of thousands of antiwar protesters worldwide took to the streets on Saturday in the biggest such demonstration since millions of people joined a global march for peace last month. In Washington, D.C., thousands of protesters from more than 100 U.S. cities rallied at the Washington Monument.
BUT THE PROTESTS did not appear to match the Feb. 15 worldwide demonstrations in size. Estimates put the Feb. 15 global turnout at upwards of four million, with some saying as high as 10 million. But this time, with war looking more likely, turnout appeared lower.
Tens of thousands of people turned out for a vigil ringing the White House. Other protests were planned in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
"President Bush, listen to your people ? the American people before you today who say, ?No war in Iraq,"' Howard University student Peta Lindsay told the midday rally in Washington.
The Washington antiwar protest was to culminate with a march to the White House and the Justice Department to surround the buildings in what organizers have called a peaceful "sea of humanity."
Under crisp, sunny skies in the U.S. capital, protesters from across the ideological spectrum heard chants of "No blood for oil" and flew rainbow-colored kites with "peace" written on them.
Organizers of the Washington event asked people to leave their jobs, their homes or whatever they are doing on the day war starts, and walk outside.
"The Iraqi people are not our enemies ? they are our sisters and brothers," Howard University student Caneisha Mills told the rally.
_ _ _ _
STRONG PROTESTS IN SPAIN
On the other side of the Atlantic, hundreds of thousands of protesters poured into the center of Madrid on Saturday denouncing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's support for a U.S.-led war on Iraq.
Prominent actors, writers, opposition politicians and union leaders led the colorful demonstration as marchers of all ages chanted "No To The War" and waved placards that said "Aznar Murderer."
A government spokesman estimated 120,000 people attended the march, while organizers put the figure at one million. Local media estimated there were hundreds of thousands of marchers.
It was one of several protests across Spain, which has the strongest antiwar sentiment in Western Europe. Polls show more than three-quarters of Spaniards oppose an attack on Iraq.
In Barcelona, police estimated some 300,000 protesters formed a human chain which stretched across the city from the U.S. consulate to the regional headquarters of Aznar's ruling Popular Party.
"Today millions of Europeans and Spaniards are repeating 'no to a war', just as they said a month ago," said Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the head of Spain's Socialist opposition. "How many times must we say this before Aznar listens? Our citizens do no want this war."
_ _ _ _
Around 10,000 marched in Tokyo and 3,000 in Bangkok, where pigeons were released into the skies over the Thai capital as a peace symbol. Protests were also reported in Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand.
People burnt effigies of Bush in Calcutta, India, while demonstrators chanted: "Raise your hands against U.S. imperialism." Others held up placards depicting Bush as Hitler.
In Europe, police said 20,000 Greeks marched to the U.S. embassy in central Athens, with rallies getting going in Scandinavia, France, Britain and elsewhere.
Police were expecting up to 200,000 to turn out across France, with a march setting off in the French capital in mid-afternoon.
?We feel that it's not too late for the people to stop this war.'
International ANSWER coalition
French President Jacques Chirac has vowed to use his veto at the United Nations if Washington seeks U.N. backing for a resolution that permits military action against Iraq.
As the Paris protest built up at the Place de la Nation, some wore T-shirts with photos of Bush and the words "Wanted: Terrorist number One." Others had banners with: "Bush, Blair ? The axis of evil."
In Germany, hundreds of antiwar activists staged a sit in protest at a U.S. air base near Frankfurt with the United States uses to transport troops and supplies to the Gulf region. Police carried some of the protesters away.
"Especially now, shortly before the possible start of a war, it is extremely important to make our resistance visible at this central hub for the deployment of troops to the Gulf," organizer Christoph Bautz said.
In the southern city of Nuremberg, about 4,000 protesters held hands to form a three mile "chain for peace."
Demonstrators take part in a protest during an antiwar rally in Athens, Greece on Saturday. Thousands of people protested against a possible US-led attack against Iraq.
In Denmark, police said 5,000 people gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in capital Copenhagen, far fewer than the around 25,000 who showed up on February 15.
"We all know that Saddam needs to be stopped, but this is not the way to do it," one middle-aged woman said. "What I'm wondering is who's going to stop Bush? We don't want a war that is about one man's will."
Between 3,000 and 4,000 people turned out in Stockholm, again a far cry from the 35,000 last month.
In London, British Muslims marched on the embassies of the Muslim world, demanding their governments stand up against the push towards war.
"The governments of the Muslim world have the power to stop this war by disallowing America and its allies from using their land, airspace, waterways and logistics to perpetrate it," said march organizer Imran Waheed.
_ _ _ _
In Iraq itself, there were state-organized marches with thousands of Iraqis vowing to defend Saddam.
"We are your soldiers, Saddam, where will America get through?" youths chanted in Kerbala, home of a Shi'ite shrine. In Baghdad, the crowd burned a U.S. flag.
In neighboring Turkey, several thousand protested against the possible use of Turkish ports and airbases by the U.S. military.
Riot police blocked roads leading to the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun in southern Turkey to try to stop demonstrators gaining access to stores of U.S. military equipment.
Tension over Iraq also sparked protests by Palestinians in Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza strip, where 2,000 angry demonstrators shouted "No to the war for oil" and "Save the Iraqi children."
They burned effigies of Bush and Israeli leader Ariel Sharon and set fire to U.S., British and Israeli flags. In Gaza City, several hundred Palestinian women protested. Another 2,000 demonstrated in Nablus, 1,000 in Jenin and a few hundred in both Ramallah and Hebron.
_ _ _ _
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.