WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Thousands of protesters flooded Washington on Saturday to stage dual demonstrations against the U.S.-led war in Iraq and economic globalization, and to demand that President George W. Bush bring troops home.
Anti-war demonstrators marched in London as well, and protests were planned in San Francisco and Los Angeles that called for an end to military action in Iraq nearly 30 months after a U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein.
"We need a people's movement to end this war," said Cindy Sheehan, an anti-war protester whose son was killed in fighting in Iraq and who camped for weeks outside Bush's Texas ranch.
"We'll be the checks and balances on this out-of-control criminal government," Sheehan, who has become the movement's best-known face, told the group rallying in a park behind the White House.
Meanwhile, several hundred gathered a few blocks away to protest the autumn meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, saying policies that promote globalization and reduced trade barriers hurt the world's poor.
Both demonstrations aimed their verbal fire at the Bush administration, calling its policies and actions "criminal."
"A cruel wind blows across America, starting in Texas and Montana and sweeping across America's heartland," Georgia Democrat Rep. Cynthia McKinney told the anti-war crowd.
"It settled here in Washington, D.C., and despite our presence today, it continues to buffet and batter the American people," she said, accusing the Bush administration of election fraud and of starting war on false evidence.
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The protesters carried signs calling Bush and Cheney "Liars" among other criticisms. "Bush is a Cat 5 Disaster," one sign said in a reference to the recent hurricanes that have hammered the U.S. Gulf Coast.
But other placards revealed the varied causes of the motley crew of demonstrators assembled for the two protests.
In addition to anti-war and anti-globalization groups, the demonstrations drew anarchists, Communists and environmentalists. Others called for an end to the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba and expressed solidarity with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Palestinians.
Protesters tried to link their separate causes under the umbrella of a fight against global poverty.
Some at the IMF/World Bank protest said they were fighting for the rights of the poor in Louisiana displaced by Hurricane Katrina, the poor in Iraq who are being hurt by war and those that protesters say are forced into poverty by IMF policies.
A U.S. veterans' group criticized the protesters, saying demonstrations will not force an end to the Iraqi war.
Instead, demonstrations would only hurt troop morale and upset the families of soldiers fighting abroad, just as they did during the Vietnam war, the Veterans of Foreign Wars said.
"The political protesters of the '60s didn't end their war and neither will this new generation," said Jim Mueller, the group's leader, said in a statement. "They will, however, achieve the same result -- they will devastate troop morale."
Protest organizers said more than 100,000 people would assemble in Washington for the rallies. The city's police chief told the Washington Post the total could easily top that estimate.
More demonstration activities were due to start Saturday afternoon and continue through Sunday.
(Additional reporting by Paritosh Bansal in Los Angeles)
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