CHICAGO, March 16 (UPI) -- With war in Iraq seemingly increasingly inevitable, thousands rallied downtown Sunday, marching through the streets as they chanted "no to war and yes to peace."
At least 10,000 people crowded into Daley Plaza to hear from dozens of speakers, labor leaders, politicians, clergy and students in the largest anti-war protest in the city since the U.S. military build-up began in the Middle East.
Eric Peters, a student at the University of Chicago, said that demonstrators were ready to conduct acts of civil disobedience beginning the day of a U.S. invasion. Students for Social Justice marched to the Leo Burnett Building on Michigan Avenue to protest the award-winning ad agency's "Army of One" recruiting campaign targeting Generation Y.
The students from dozens of high schools and colleges said they were upset that the United States had paid Burnett $150 million for a slick campaign using heavy metal music and video games to make military service appear "fun and adventurous."
"What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now," marchers chanted under the gaze of police officers who blocked traffic on side streets. Their signs read: "War is not an option," "Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld -- the real axis of evil," and "No blood for Oil." No one was arrested.
The Chicago City Council was among some 152 U.S. cities and towns that have approved resolutions opposing a pre-emptive military strike against Iraq.
With diplomacy rapidly diminishing as an option, the speakers criticized the zeal of some war proponents and called instead for money for jobs and education.
"We must oppose the religious zealotry for the heresy that it is," said Susan Thistlewaithe, president of the Chicago Theological Seminary.
"This is religious heresy. This is not politics. Mr. Bush, this semester you're getting a 'F' from me."
The capital letter "F" was scrawled in caulk on area sidewalks and the plaza's famous Picasso sculpture was covered in anti-war graffiti near a fountain spouting jets of green-dyed water in honor of St. Patrick's Day.
Despite the energy of the young protesters, several activists acknowledged war likely is unavoidable after President George W. Bush, at the Azores Summit with the leaders of Britain, Spain and Portugal, said that Monday would be "a moment of truth for the world."
Vice President Dick Cheney made the rounds of the network TV public affairs shows on Sunday, saying, "There is no question we are close to the end of diplomatic efforts.
"Clearly the president is going to have to make a very, very difficult and important decision in the next few days," Cheney told NBC's "Meet the Press."
Barbara Hausman-Appel of Oak Park, Ill., said she was realistic about the chances of peace protests affecting U.S. policy. She said the well-organized rally, held under clear sunny skies on the warmest day of the year, could not prevent war.
"Unfortunately I don't (think that). But I still feel it's very important to be here," said Hausman-Appel, assistant director of the Family Law Center at DePaul University College of Law.
She attended the rally with Tate, her 6-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, who wore a "No Iraq War" placard representing "Dogs for Peace."
"If people were like dogs, we'd just sniff one another and we'd all get along," she joked.
Turning serious, Hauseman-Appel said she wouldn't participate in civil disobedience although she protested the Vietnam War 30 years ago while visiting Washington with her family.
"I'm asking that our government be lawful. So I think I need to make my protest a lawful one," she said. "There's that Pollyanna in me that would still like to think there's a chance to prevent this."
Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., a veteran of the 1960s civil rights movement, predicted the peace movement and protest would affect government policy.
"Well, they've done some good in England," Davis told United Press International. "And I think if there are enough of them and we continue to do it, no matter how hard-hearted someone might be -- or no matter what the president might think -- I don't think he can for long ignore the will of the people."
Fred Hampton Jr., son of the Illinois Black Panther Party leader killed in a 1969 police raid on a West Side apartment, spoke on behalf of working people and those he said had been wrongfully incarcerated.
"We say no," said Hampton, 33, wearing a shirt reading: "You can kill the revolutionary, but you can't kill the revolution."
Several hundred people gathered on the North Side for a candlelight vigil Sunday night, one of 3,000 anti-war vigils planned nationwide, organizers said.