Protesters blocked traffic and government buildings in Washington, acted out a Baghdad street scene in Syracuse, N.Y., and banged drums in a parade through San Francisco on Wednesday to mark the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.In other, more somber observances, organizers set up a 2-mile display of about 4,000 T-shirts in Cincinnati, meant to symbolize the members of the U.S. military killed in Iraq, while in Louisville, Ky., demonstrators lined rows of military boots, sandals and children’s tennis shoes on the steps of a courthouse.
Laurie Wolberton of Louisville, Ky., whose son just finished an Army tour of duty in Iraq, said she fears the worsening U.S. economy has caused Americans to forget about the war.
“We’re not paying attention anymore,” she said. “My son has buried his friends. He’s given eulogies, he’s had to go through things no one should have to go through, and over here they’ve forgotten. They just go shopping instead.”
On previous anniversaries, tens of thousands of people marched through major U.S. cities, and more than 100,000 gathered on several occasions leading up to the invasion.
Only a few hundred mustered for one of Wednesday’s largest gatherings, in Washington, the crowds’ size perhaps kept in check by a late-winter storm system that stretched the length of the country.
Dozens of people were arrested, most of them at demonstrations in San Francisco, Washington and Syracuse.
At the Internal Revenue Service building in the nation’s capital, about 100 protesters led by a marching band gathered at the main entrance. Several jumped barricades and sat down in front of the doors and were immediately detained. The demonstrators said they were focusing on the IRS, among other institutions, because it gathers taxes used to fund the war.
Brian Bickett, 29, was among the first arrested. The high school theater teacher from New York City said he had never engaged in civil disobedience before.
“We need to find lots of different ways to resist the war, and I decided to try this,” he said.
About 20 protesters were arrested about a block from the U.S. Capitol after blocking traffic. In some cases, police had to drag the protesters off the street.
In Syracuse, police arrested 20 protesters who blocked traffic by creating a mock Baghdad street scene. One person dressed in camouflage lay on the ground. Another was covered in a white sheet with red markings and a woman leaned over as if grieving. They were from a group of more than 100 demonstrators who marched downtown in a steady rain over the lunch hour.
In Chicopee, Mass., eight people were arrested when they blocked a gate at Westover Air Reserve Base, police said. Five people were arrested In Hartford, Conn., for blocking the front door of a federal courthouse.
On the West Coast, San Francisco police arrested about 100 protesters by early afternoon for blocking traffic and chaining themselves to buildings, police said.
The rallies, which drew hundreds to the city’s busy financial district, were mostly peaceful, though some demonstrators threw glass Christmas ornaments filled with paint at police, said Sgt. Steve Mannina, a San Francisco police spokesman.
Black balloons were tied to trees along San Francisco’s main downtown thoroughfare, and protesters at a table offered coffee, oranges and “unhappy birthday cake” to passers-by.
A few hundred protesters banging drums and waving banners that read “Was it worth it” took to the streets for a parade that blocked morning traffic.
In Anchorage, Alaska, vandals dumped a gallon of red paint on a war veterans memorial, police spokesman Lt. Paul Honeman said.
Demonstrators also converged in Ohio, where more than 20 vigils, rallies, marches and other events were planned.
In New York City, women sang songs and counted out the war dead outside the military recruiting station in Times Square, which was recently the target of a bomb.
Half a dozen war protesters in Miami dressed in black placed flowers outside the U.S. Southern Command during rush-hour Wednesday morning.
Outside a military recruitment office in Washington, protesters were met by a handful of counterdemonstrators, one of several shows of support for the war and the troops.
Colby Dillard, who held a sign reading, “We support our brave military and their just mission,” pointed to some red paint that one of the war protesters had splattered on the sidewalk.
“The same blood was spilled to give you the right to do what you’re doing,” said Dillard, who said he served in Iraq in 2003.
Earlier, about 150 people, mostly with the group Veterans for Peace, marched down Independence Avenue. Many of them carried upside-down American flags, which they said symbolized a nation in distress.
Daniel Black, who was stationed in Fallujah with the Marines in 2004, said he came to believe the war was a mistake after he returned.
“The more I read the more it just didn’t add up,” said the 25-year-old, a student at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
A couple of miles away at the American Petroleum Institute, protesters chanted “No blood for oil!” and tried to block traffic by sitting in the street and linking arms. At least once, they were dragged away by police.
Vandals in Milwaukee damaged the front door of an Army recruiting center and spray-painted anti-war graffiti across its front windows. Milwaukee police said the vandalism occurred Monday night or Tuesday.
The Iraq war has been unpopular both abroad and in the United States, although an Associated Press-Ipsos poll in December showed that growing numbers think the U.S. is making progress and will eventually be able to claim some success in Iraq.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Karen Mahabir in Washington; Dave Collins in Hartford, Conn.; Laura Wides-Munoz in Miami; William Kates in Syracuse, N.Y.; Marcus Wohlsen in San Francisco; Dinesh Ramde in Milwaukee; Stephanie Reitz in Springfield, Mass.; Will Graves in Louisville, Ky.; and Deepti Hajela in New York.