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Anti-war demonstrators rally around the world

Organizers put turnout in Washington at 200,000

An anti-war protester shouts back at a supporter of war with Iraq on Saturday in Washington.
An anti-war protester shouts back at a supporter of war with Iraq on Saturday in Washington.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Americans across the nation publicly protested a possible war in Iraq on Saturday.

In Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, California, at the two largest peace rallies, the crowds were urged on by international peace activists, religious leaders, members of Congress, actors and musicians.

At least tens of thousands of people rallied on the Mall in Washington, and a similar-size group crowded downtown San Francisco.

The group in Washington followed the rally with a march through the streets of the capital.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was among the speakers who addressed the crowd, huddled against freezing temperatures.

"Let's choose minds over missiles and negotiation over confrontation," he said. "We are here because we choose coexistence over coannihilation, because we choose brains not bombs, and we use brains -- not brute force -- to stop conflict, to stop terrorism and not to spread it.

"It does not stand to reason," he said to cheers, "to have an unfinished confrontation with al Qaeda, ignore the Middle East, and fast-forward to Iraq. We are not finding out about security, we are finding out about hegemony and oil and defense contracts. We deserve better."

The rally is one of dozens organized in 25 countries by the group Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER). The group said it had organized transportation from more than 200 cities in 45 states for the rallies in Washington and San Francisco. Organizers estimated the crowd at about 200,000. Washington park police would not offer an estimate. (Read more)

British Parliament member Jeremy Corbyn traveled to Washington for the rally.

"In Britain there is enormous opposition to this war," he said. "This is a war with no support, no public recognition for it, and I think the leaders, particularly President Bush and Prime Minister [Tony] Blair, are going to have to recognize they're on their own on this one."

Saturday afternoon, the crowd began marching toward the Washington Navy Yard, a military installation in Southeast Washington. A symbolic "people's inspection team" planned to demand to inspect the area for weapons of mass destruction, mocking U.N. inspections in Iraq.

Some marchers wore costumes, and many carried signs with slogans such as "No blood for oil," "Act now, stop war and racism," and "What would Jesus do?"

Eilene Joiner, who traveled from Virginia, said "I came because I believe the pre-emptive war is wrong, and I felt that I just needed to show my protest."

A man climbs a pole to get a better view of protests in San Francisco.
A man climbs a pole to get a better view of protests in San Francisco.

Her companion, Terry Lewis, said he came despite having no assurance the rally would have much effect.

"As Americans," he said, "we have to let our president know if we disagree with his plans to go to war."

In San Francisco, people flocked to a waterfront rally at 11 a.m. (2 p.m. EST) followed by a march down Market Street in the heart of the city to the Civic Center. Aerial video showed people gathered shoulder-to-shoulder along several blocks of one street. Police predicted street protests could continue until 7 p.m. (10 p.m. EST).

This week, the FBI sent a bulletin to 18,000 federal, state and local law enforcement departments warning that activists could try to block or occupy facilities.

There were no reports of such incidents, or of any violence or confrontations.

Worldwide demonstrations

Demonstrators in Tokyo carry signs protesting war in Iraq.
Demonstrators in Tokyo carry signs protesting war in Iraq.

In Tokyo, Japan, marchers carried banners in English and Japanese expressing opposition to a possible war. Some protesters wore costumes and masks bearing Bush's image.

In Rawalpindi, Pakistan, people -- many of them youths -- joined hands along a street and held signs opposing war.

"Iraq isn't your ranch," proclaimed one placard held by a protester in a small group that braved snow and cold in Moscow. Some protesters waved Palestinian flags.

Palestinian flags were also visible at a rally in Cairo, Egypt, where scores of people gathered in protest of U.S. policies. "Iraq and Palestine one issue" read one banner.

ANSWER is planning a week of anti-war demonstrations beginning February 13. The group is calling for actions supporting protests in Europe on February 15, and for protests -- including walk-outs by U.S. college and high school students -- February 21 to coincide with the anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X.

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