Shortly after the U.S. military death toll in Iraq reached 3,000, about 60 anti-war grandmothers gathered in midtown Manhattan to read the names of soldiers from the region who have died in the war.
"The only people who have suffered are the young people and their families," said Rebecca Lubetkin, a participant at Monday's vigil.
With curious tourists snapping pictures, members of Grandmothers Against the War read the names of the dead from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
By Monday, the U.S. military death toll in Iraq had climbed to 3,002, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press since the war began in March 2003.
The grandmothers then walked to the military recruiting center in Times Square to continue their demonstration, holding signs reading "3,000 U.S. lives for a lie" and "Stop recruiting our children."
"We're outraged and heartbroken, and we want it to stop," said Joan Wile, 75, the groups' director.
Just feet away, two counter-protesters with a group called United American Committee held U.S. flags and their own signs, with messages such as "We Shall Stay the Course. Keep the Promise. No surrender" and "Warning: Leftist protesters trying to demoralize our troops."
Pamela Hall, who leads the group's New York chapter, said the anti-war group's messages were "anti-patriotic and disrespectful."
"It doesn't support our troops' intelligence and patriotism," Hall said of the vigil. "They've chosen to keep us safe. They deserve our respect and support."
In April, a Manhattan judge acquitted 18 anti-war activists — some in their 80s and 90s — of disorderly conduct charges related to a 2005 protest outside the Times Square recruiting station. Some are also part of Grandmothers Against the War.
Iraqi authorities on Monday reported that 16,273 Iraqi civilians, soldiers and police died violent deaths in 2006. The figure outstrips an independent AP count for the year by more than 2,500.
President Bush is expected to deliver his Iraq policy speech soon in the face of mounting opposition to the war.
The revised policy is expected to lay out his plan to improve security, assist the Iraqis in reaching a political reconciliation between warring sects and help with reconstruction.
Bush, in a statement released from his Texas ranch, said the United States is mindful of the troops' dedication and sacrifice.
"In the New Year, we will remain on the offensive against the enemies of freedom, advance the security of our country and work toward a free and unified Iraq," he said.
Copyright © 2007 Associated Press