ROME - About 1 million peace protesters wrapped in rainbow peace flags and shrieking slogans against a war on Iraq flooded central Rome on Saturday.
Hundreds of buses and two dozen special trains ferried protesters from around Italy to the capital for a march that wound for several kilometers (miles) through central Rome.
Protesters fill St. John Lateran square during an anti-war rally in Rome, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2003. Millions of protesters around the world demonstrated Saturday against U.S. plans to attack Iraq. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)
One senior police official said on condition of anonymity that the crowd appeared to be "more or less" 1 million people; authorities later offered an official estimate of more than 650,000 people in and around one main square, with many more people who didn't make it in. Organizers said that more than 3 million people had turned out.
"No to the war!" the crowd chanted.
Tommaso Palladini, a 56-year-old pensioner who traveled down from Milan for the demonstration, argued that the Bush administration's justification for a possible war on Iraq didn't make sense.
"You don't fight terrorism with a preventive war," he said. "You fight terrorism by creating more justice in the world."
Several dozen marchers from Genoa held up pictures of Iraqi artists. "We're carrying these photos to show the other face of the Iraqi people that the TV doesn't show," said 38-year-old Giovanna Marenzana.
One banner read, "Peace is in our hands." Another said, "Drop Bush, not bombs."
But it was the rainbow-striped flags bearing the word "Peace" that dominated the march, after weeks in which many Italians began to hang the multicolored banners from their windows as a sign of opposition to war.
The procession wound its way toward San Giovanni Square, where activists had set up a stage featuring the words "Let's Stop the War" above a reproduction of Pablo Picasso's anti-war painting "Guernica." Activists delivered speeches to demonstrators, many of whom waved flags of leftist Italian political parties.
Anti-war protesters march in front of Rome's ancient Colosseum during a demonstration against war on Iraq, February 15, 2003. To the sounds of marching bands and under a sea of rainbow peace banners, an estimated one million people marched through the streets of ancient Rome on Saturday to oppose the threat of war on Iraq. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico
Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said the march was a demonstration both opposed to terrorism and war. "Today isn't a day for controversy, it's a demonstration for peace," he said.
The massive march in Rome was one of many peace demonstrations across the world Saturday.
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has been one of U.S. President George W. Bush's staunchest supporters in Europe. However, recent polls have indicated that a strong majority of Italians oppose a war against Iraq.
© Copyright The Associated Press 2003