Support for U.S. troops fighting abroad mixed with anger toward anti-war demonstrators at home as hundreds of people, far fewer than organizers had expected, rallied Sunday on the National Mall just a day after a massive protest against the war in Iraq.
"No matter what your ideals are, our sons and daughters are fighting for our freedom," said Marilyn Faatz, who drove from New Jersey to attend the rally. "We are making a mockery out of this. And we need to stand united, but we are not."
About 400 people gathered near a stage on an eastern segment of the mall, a large photo of an American flag serving as a backdrop. Amid banners and signs proclaiming support for U.S. troops, several speakers hailed the effort to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan and denounced those who protest it.
Many demonstrators focused their ire at Cindy Sheehan, the California woman whose protest near President Bush's Texas home last summer galvanized the anti-war movement. Sheehan was among the speakers at Saturday's rally near the Washington Monument on the western part of the mall, an event that attracted an estimated 100,000 people.
"The group who spoke here the other day did not represent the American ideals of freedom, liberty and spreading that around the world," Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, told the crowd. "I frankly don't know what they represent, other than blaming America first," reports the AP.
"Shame on you," Sheehan admonished, directing that portion of her remarks to members of Congress who backed Bush on the invasion of Iraq. "How many more of other people's children are you willing to sacrifice?"
She led the crowd in chanting, "Not one more."
On Sunday, a rally supporting the war drew roughly 500 participants, far below the 20,000 expected by event organizers. Held on the eastern edge of the Mall, the rally was over in about three hours.
Speakers included veterans of World War II and the war in Iraq, as well as family members of soldiers killed in Iraq.
"I would like to say to Cindy Sheehan and her supporters don't be a group of unthinking lemmings. It's not pretty," said Mitzy Kenny of Ridgeley, W.Va., whose husband died in Iraq last year. The anti-war demonstrations "can affect the war in a really negative way. It gives the enemy hope."
Kevin Pannell, a soldier who lost his legs from the knees down in Iraq, told the crowd he was amazed that Saturday's demonstrators were taking for granted their right to free speech, informs New York Newsday.
Photo: the AP