WASHINGTON -- Tens of thousands of peace demonstrators, linked together by a 15-mile-long tapestry ribbon, encircled the Capitol, Pentagon and other national landmarks Sunday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing.
The demonstrators, most of them women, snaked around the landmarks in balmy weather, each carrying yard-long cloth panels embroidered or painted with anti-nuclear slogans and pictures of such things as mushroom clouds, children and puppies.
The marchers were estimated by U.S. Park Police to number 15,000.
About four hours after the peaceful demonstration began, participants tied their panels together to create one massive banner that wrapped around much of federal Washington and across the Potomac River into Arlington, Va. and was broken only so it did not block street traffic.
As the segments were tied, balloons and cheers sailed into the air.
'The fact that so many thousands were moved to participate, proves that bombs and humanity don't mix,' said Sandy Berliant, of Wilmette, Ill.
'I wanted to be here because I have four children and I want to see them grow up,' said Susan Coltrin, of Pasadena, Calif.
The marchers formed three lines. One line stretched around the Capitol and the Smithsonian Mall. A second was wrapped around an area including the Washington Monument, the Ellipse park in front of the White House, the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. The third ribbon crossed Memorial Bridge into Arlington, Va. and surrounded the Pentagon.
The lines were joined together at 2 p.m.
The idea for the ribbon was conceived by Justine Merritt, 61, of Denver, Colo., three years ago as a 'gentle reminder' to the government of the disaster of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.
She instructed participants to depict on their panels what they could not bear to lose in a nuclear war, such as family members, food or plants. But some panels depicted pizza or cockroaches.
Many of the participants billed the demonstration as a feminist event.
'The sewing is a traditionally women's thing,' said Bernice Barta of Evanston, Ill. 'Those aggressive marches are such a masculine thing. I think this is a gentler statement from women.'
'If the men in the Pentagon had to spend one day a week in child care, I think our entire military program would be different,' said Carolyn Hock of Baltimore, Md., who joined the protest with her peace-activist mother Martha Hock, of Des Moines, Iowa.
Smaller numbers of men and children joined the parade, including two teenagers who carried a tapestry reading: 'Why go to college? Ka-Boom!'
Musicians singing traditional 1960s protest songs such as 'Blowing in the Wind,' entertained the protesters while they selected one of 25,500 segments of banner they would carry in the march.
Merritt said the segments were sent to her from senior citizens, Cub Scouts, and church groups worldwide, including Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Tanzania, Canada and Japan.
In Hiroshima, a similar ribbon is expected to be wrapped around the A-Bomb Memorial Dome.
The demonstrators include representatives of 50 states and the District of Columbia.