Several thousand antiwar demonstrators marched a mile down Hollywood Boulevard on Sunday, focusing their protest on the domestic costs of war and the prospect of future military conflicts now that Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq has crumbled.
"We had to shift our message now that the war has changed," said Kristin Norton, a spokeswoman for the Coalition for World Peace and one of the event's organizers.
When the march was planned two weeks ago, the war in Iraq was in full swing and looked as if it would go on for quite a while, organizers said. But with the demise of Hussein's government, leaders of the protest held an eight-hour retreat earlier in the week to discuss new themes.
The bloodshed in Iraq, although still a prevalent theme during the five-hour event, was overshadowed, in part, by concerns that U.S. military action might extend to Iran and North Korea -- countries President Bush has labeled as part of an "axis of evil." Protesters argued that the billions of dollars spent on the war would be better spent on health care, education and other domestic programs.
"Imagine how much good that money could be doing domestically," Norton said.
Many demonstrators embraced the new themes.
"The signs change as the war changes," said actress Alexandra Paul, a former star of television's "Baywatch" who was holding a sign that read: "What Next? Syria?"
"The peace movement is fluid," she said.
Police said that about 3,000 people attended the rally, but organizers put the figure at 6,000 to 7,500. At its peak, the march stretched three blocks down Hollywood Boulevard from its ending point at La Brea Avenue, where a stage was set up for speakers and musicians.
Mark Salazar, a Los Angeles furniture maker, marched with his 15-year-old son, Alex, who held a small sign that read, "No War in Iraq" with "Iraq" crossed out and painted over in red with the word "Iran."
"Whatever they keep going for, we're gonna keep crossing it out and putting a new country there," the elder Salazar said. "The sign's well-traveled."
George Dutton, a UCLA professor of Asian languages and cultures, marched under a small sign that read, "UCLA Faculty Against the War."
"If nothing else, I am reminded of the beginning of the Vietnam War, and that our government is very capable of making terrible mistakes," he said. "Whether the war is over or not, whether it is successful or not, any level of success doesn't make it legal."
As the marchers passed the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue near Grauman's Chinese Theatre, protesters withstood boos and jeers from tourists, and then booed back. Some spectators threw eggs at the protesters, police said.
No arrests were made, police said, but in one incident near the rally stage, pro-war demonstrator Matt Frazier got into a scuffle with protesters over his large sign, which read, "Bomb Saddam, Liberate Iraq." Activists tore at his sign and shoved Frazier to the ground, forcing police to surround Frazier and escort him away.
"This is a peace rally, right?" Frazier said.