Hundreds march to protest U.S. military role in Iraq

Anti-war protesters paraded in downtown Seattle on Saturday, one of many such protests across the United States and United Kingdom to mark the third anniversary of the Iraq war.

The procession of hundreds of chanting people, some with signs, some in costume, began just a couple of hours after Seattle's St. Patrick's Day parade had made its way down Fourth Avenue.

When the anti-war procession reached Fourth Avenue, some thought it was another St. Patrick's Day event. Despite the confusion, the protesters were encouraged by the cheers of shoppers and some leftover St. Patrick's parade-goers.

"It's wonderful," said Mike Hastie, a Portland resident and member of Veterans for Peace, who was part of the march. "We're just trying to get the troops out of the lie."

Seattle's demonstration was coordinated by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism.) Before the march, the demonstrators rallied in front of the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building on Second Avenue and Marion Street.

From the back of a flatbed truck, speakers lambasted the Bush administration and decried the situation in Iraq.

Eman Khammas, a Baghdad resident and anti-war activist, told the crowd the American presence in Iraq has made things worse.

"Every day is worse than the day before," she said after her speech. Saddam Hussein "was a dictator, it was bad. But as bad as it was, now it is worse."

After the speeches the demonstrators marched to Yesler Way, up to Fourth Avenue, past Westlake Center and back around to the Federal Building.

Seattle police were out in force but reported no arrests during the demonstration, which began about 1 p.m. and ended by about 3:30.

It was a "very peaceful demonstration," said police spokesman Sean Whitcomb.

Not everybody who came opposed the U.S. presence in Iraq.

George Bentley of Everett stood across Second Avenue from the demonstrators with an American flag and signs supporting troops and the conflict.

Bentley, who said he was in the Navy in the early 1980s, said he doesn't want to see demonstrations such as Saturday's encourage the withdrawal of troops as they did during the Vietnam War.

Bentley was the only person who stood out as being in support of the Iraq conflict. He said he often comes to demonstrations such as Saturday's to represent the other side, and at times tensions can run high.

"I get in shouting matches, but I give as good as I get," he said.

Brian Alexander: 425-745-7845 or