OTTAWA - As many as 5,000 protesters thronged the streets around Parliament Hill Tuesday, hundreds of them briefly scuffling with police as they demonstrated against visiting U.S. President George W. Bush.
By the end of the day, 16 people had been arrested: eight in Ottawa and eight in Gatineau, Que., the site of a formal dinner for Bush Tuesday night.
Disorder broke out at about 3 p.m. in front of the Chateau Laurier hotel, shortly after Bush and Prime Minister Paul Martin gave a news conference at the Lester B. Pearson Building, the headquarters of Canada's Foreign Affairs department.
BUSH SCARES ME
Peaceful demonstrators walk from an anti-Bush protest in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Wednesday Dec. 1, 2004. U.S. President Bush was on a two-hour visit in Halifax. (AP Photo/CP, Jacques Boissinot)
Police officers in riot gear pushed back a thick crowd of anti-war activists, some of whom were shouting at the security forces and trying to jostle them with the sticks of their placards.
At least three protesters were pushed down onto the ground and arrested as CBC Newsworld television cameras recorded the action.
Some police in riot gear could be seen pulling on gas masks, suggesting that they were ready to release gas to control the crowd.
Colleagues dragged away one police officer who seemed to have been injured in the melée.
"One college student who was skipping class for the day to attend the protest told me, 'When they started pointing the tear gas guns, we decided we should go,'" said CBC News Online journalist Paddy Moore, who was on the scene writing a rolling account of events for CBC.ca.
Moore said the demonstrators seemed to be trying to advance in the direction of either the U.S. Embassy on Sussex Drive, Parliament Hill or the bridge leading to Gatineau, Que.
The latter destination was where 700 invited guests attended a formal dinner in Bush's honour Tuesday night, at the Museum of Civilization.
The crowd had mostly dispersed by 4 p.m., with the exception of a few protesters still engaged in a faceoff with police, Moore said.
Protesters did show up outside the museum a few hours later, though, where more arrests were made.
Earlier demonstrations relatively peaceful
Earlier in the day, as Bush arrived on Parliament Hill to greet Martin and sign the government guest book, U.S. Secret Service agents and RCMP officers equipped with rifles and video cameras kept watch over a peaceful crowd of about 200 as they shouted "Go Home" and other slogans.
A small number of pro-Bush demonstrators also showed up to offer a welcome to the conservative, family-values politician.
One of them held a sign reading: "The only mad cow is Carolyn Parrish," referring to the Liberal MP recently thrown out of caucus after repeated verbal attacks against the Americans and Bush.
But by far the larger number of demonstrators were no fans of the American president or the war in Iraq that his administration launched a year and a half ago.
There were reports that a large papier mâché statue of Bush would be toppled during the protest, a reference to the role he played in invading Iraq and toppling leader Saddam Hussein in the spring of 2003.
The Ottawa rally was one of about 25 planned across the country to draw attention to Bush's policies and politics during the visit.
Many of the Ottawa protesters were opposed to Bush's plans for a North American missile shield system that would require Canadian participation.
Also present were activists in favour of legalized marijuana, same-sex marriages, and a woman's right to choose, as well as students, grandmothers and groups ranging from Lawyers Against the War to Bellydancers Against Bush.
Another major protest is planned for Wednesday morning in Halifax, where demonstrators will picket near Bush's speech at the Pier 21 immigration museum on the city's waterfront.
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