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Thousands march against war
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Up to 5,000 people attended an anti-war rally in downtown Minneapolis Thursday evening. (MPR Photo/Marisa Helms)
About 5,000 people turned up for an anti-war rally and march Thursday night in downtown Minneapolis. The long line of protesters opposing the war with Iraq snaked through the streets, tying up traffic for about three hours.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Despite the wind and rain, the Federal Building plaza quickly filled up Thursday afternoon. Protest organizers provided signs for those who had none, and got them started with a round of chants.

"We are what democracy looks like! We are what democracy looks like! Bush is what hypocrisy looks like!" they shouted.

The city and police were ready to accommodate the thousands who showed up for the well-publicized demonstration. Roads were blocked off, bus lines rerouted. Helicopters circled overhead, mounted riot police kept a watchful eye from a distance.

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Image High school students against the war

Demonstrators, many of them high school students, brought energy to the rally.

"We're trying to show people that teenagers also have influence, not just adults, and we actually care about everybody in the world, and not just who Bush cares about," said one teenage boy.

There was also sadness among the demonstrators. Many, including Ashley Roussopoulos, 16, of Lake City, said news of the war's start was difficult to take.

"I started crying. It made me think about all those people who are going to die, and who don't deserve to die," Roussopolous said. "And I'm really happy to be here, so that I can make sure people know that I don't want people to die because no one deserves to die."

There was a wide mix of people. Parents with babies, grandparents, seniors, and students. Some wore scarves around their faces to hide their identity. One man said he wore a mask out of concern about government surveillance.

Bicyclist Omar abdal Halleem said he joined the rally and march because he's upset that the U.S. abandoned the will of the international community.

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Image War supporters in the midst of the rally

"For the whole military, the United States military, with all of its finances and technology -- to feel that it's arrogant enough to get one man out, when there should be a process, an international process. I mean, who else will fall?" said Halleem.

A group of teens stopped in traffic by the protesters hung their own sign out the car window. It was an image of a military ship at sea. The poster read: "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of all who threaten it."

"We're for the war, we want to liberate Iraq," said one occupant in the car. "I'm happy. I think it's about time we take care of this problem. I think he has chemical weapons that we don't know about, and he's not showing us. So I think we should take care of this problem."

Minneapolis resident Ann Gayle said she found herself in a disturbing argument with an onlooker. Gayle said she was surprised because she doesn't know anybody personally who supports the war against Iraq.

"When you discover the pattern of our foreign policy, this is another example, and I don't trust that this time we're going to create a democracy. I want what's best for the Iraqi people," Gayle said. "So I told her, 'You just keep tabs on it, and I will too, and if a democracy happens, then great,' but I don't believe that's why we're there."

The protesters marched a wide circle around downtown, returning to the Federal Building two hours later.

One woman who was trying to drive home got out of her car to express her displeasure with the demonstrators. They invited her to join them.

Retail and restaurant workers along Hennepin Ave. stopped what they were doing to watch the massive protest from the windows of their shops.

The demonstrators were escorted by six Minneapolis police cars. At the rear of the cortege were six more police cars, 10 mounted riot police, and six officers on foot.

The march and rally lasted three hours. There was no violence and no arrests.

Several local anti-war groups are sponsoring protests every day. They say they will not give up until the U.S.-led war with Iraq stops.

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