WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators returned here for the second consecutive weekend, marching Saturday against U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf and denouncing President Bush for waging war abroad as social ills flourish at home.
The scene was repeated in a number of major European cities in the biggest wave of war protests in the West since the war began nine days ago.
Bonn hosted the largest demonstration by far, drawing at least 150,000 people. But the anti-American, anti-Israeli flavor evident in past weeks was virtually gone.
In fact, some war protesters waved Israeli flags, and, when a small group of protesters tried to burn an American flag, those surrounding them chanted, "Stop, Stop."
Some of the anger at the Bonn demonstration was targeted at German companies that produced military equipment for sale to Iraq.
"Germans earn money from weapons and poison gas and other people pay with their lives," one placard read.
In Washington, U.S. Park Police estimated that about 75,000 persons paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue. Protest organizers said about 300,000 persons braved frigid air to hear and cheer a procession of speakers urging an immediate end to the bombing of cities in Iraq and Kuwait.
Many marchers emphasized that the money and attention going into the war effort would be better spent at home.
"The need for negotiation grows stronger every day," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said. "Every bomb is a school we did not build, a road we did not pave, a thousand children we did not feed."
Although recent polls show that well over 80% of Americans support President Bush's policies in the gulf, only a tiny contingency representing that view gathered along the parade route.
One group of about 75 demonstrators supporting the war entrenched themselves across the street from the White House. An even smaller group among their ranks shouted out confrontational slogans: "Love it or leave it!" "Go home, terrorists!" and "USA, all the way!"
Chris Turman, a George Washington University student, solemnly held up a poster-sized photograph of Vice President Dan Quayle, in response to numerous jeers about Quayle's stateside service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War.
Perhaps the largest demonstration in support of the troops was in Albany, N.Y., where several hundred people gathered with signs typically saying, "Love and miss you, dad," and "Hate the war, not the troops."
The protest in Washington was sponsored by the National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, a coalition of more than 500 anti-war groups. The organization has called for an end to the war and removal of U.S. forces from the region and, at the same time, has condemned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for invading Kuwait and has supported the United Nation's imposition of sanctions against Iraq.
Jim Lafferty, a spokesman for the National Campaign for Peace, was clearly elated by the number of supporters who attended Saturday's rally. He said the turnout indicated a swelling of anti-war sentiment in the nation.
"Every day the war goes on, we will win recruits," he said. He said it was "unfortunate" that his organization's greatest growth will come after the ground war begins claiming American lives.
The speakers at the rally were more mainstream and moderate than those at a Washington rally a week ago sponsored by the Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East. The coalition has not condemned Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, and it opposed sanctions against Iraq.
The politicians, actors, labor officials and women's rights leaders at Saturday's demonstration seemed less confrontational and intent on defending their patriotism as they condemned the Bush Administration for sending troops into combat.
Even those in the crowd seemed eager to portray themselves as loyal Americans. Some marchers carried or wore American flags. Many of the banners displayed Old Glory as prominently as peace signs. One protester proudly marched with a hand-lettered sign proclaiming, "Peace is Patriotic."
Actress Susan Sarandon told protesters that if Americans objected to political decisions, it was their obligation to speak out. "The most patriotic thing I could do today is be here with you," she said.
Jackson, who spoke to the crowd surrounded by four members of the Military Families Support Network, an organization of anti-war relatives of U.S. troops, ridiculed the Bush Administration's failure to support a wide range of domestic programs that could assist Americans, including the military forces when they return.
"We supported the troops before they left," he said, referring to the protesters' demands that military spending go toward a broad array of domestic needs. "The President can't champion for the troops in the gulf and champion against them when they come home."
Many marchers carefully emphasized that their anger was directed at the politics of war, not the fighting warriors.