MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Thousands of anti-war protesters marched in frigid temperatures through the Uptown area on Saturday, joining demonstrators around the world who decried a possible U.S war against Iraq.
Organizers said they estimated 7,500 to 8,000 people, which would be the largest crowd yet in Minnesota to protest military action against Iraq, participated in the march. Minneapolis police did not provide a crowd estimate, but said the demonstration was peaceful.
"This has surpassed our expectations," said Meredith Aby, a Minneapolis school teacher who belongs to the Anti-War Committee.
It took nearly an hour for the marchers to traverse the 1.5-mile route from Hennepin and Lagoon Avenues to Loring Park, where they gathered near a sport-utility vehicle rigged with a sound system to listen to a series of speakers.
"This war is really about expanding the American empire," high school senior Vanda Smrkovski, 17, told the crowd.
Other speakers included Peter Erlinder, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, and American Indian leader Clyde Bellecourt.
Politicians at the rally included Minneapolis City Council Member Dean Zimmermann and St. Paul City Council Member Jay Benanav. Zimmermann recently failed to persuade his colleagues to hear an anti-war resolution he co-sponsored; Benanav will try to get a similar resolution passed Wednesday in St. Paul.
"This the third rally I've attended, and the biggest one yet," said Valerie Carr of Minneapolis, who marched hoisting a Women Against Military Madness sign. "There's a whole population that's against this."
The march was organized by the local Iraq Peace Action Coalition to coincide with dozens of other war protests held around the world Saturday.
Jane Burnett marched with a sign that read: "Hockey Moms for Peace."
"I have a college age son, I don't want a draft reinstated," she said. "I don't want him to go. But more importantly, I don't want families in Iraq to be killed."
Other protesters held signs with slogans like, "No blood for oil," and "Say No to War with Iraq."
Dave Furness drove from his home in Owatonna for the demonstration in part to show solidarity with his college-age son, who planned to attend a New York City protest.
"The government is not listening to the messages of the people in their country," he said. "War is not the answer."
A much smaller protest was organized in St. Cloud, 67 miles northwest from Minneapolis. More then 140 people gathered at the intersection of Minnesota Highways 15 and 23, carrying signs with phrases like: "Drop Bush, not bombs," and "Patriots for Peace."
"I'm tired of this," said Anesh Patel, 21, from Clarkfield. "I don't know if this is making a difference, but at least I'm not just sitting and doing nothing."
Mike Falcon, of Albany, said: "I don't believe Americans are being told what's really going on. I think they're getting propaganda."
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