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By the time the war protesters began their march Saturday morning in Salt Lake City, only about 50 people had gathered. Their numbers had swelled to about 200 by noon - and that was with a little high-tech help from a marcher who text-messaged friends to join him.
The early low turnout was discouraging to some, such as Susan Westergard of Holladay.
"There's just about more policemen here than people," said the Democratic candidate for the Utah House of Representatives in District 40, nodding to the squadron of eight motorcycle officers parked alongside 400 South. "I guess the longer the war goes on, the more people accept it."
The protesters, organized by the People for Peace and Justice of Utah, marched from Pioneer Park to a rally on the steps of the City-County Building, where they listened to songs, speeches and chants condemning the war.
It was a scene repeated across the United States and the world Saturday as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to mark today's third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The protests, like those held to mark each of the two previous anniversaries of the March 2003 invasion, were vigorous and peaceful but far smaller than the large-scale marches that preceded the war, despite polls showing lower public support for the war than in years past and anemic approval ratings for President Bush, himself a focus of many of the protesters.
In Times Square, about 1,000 anti-war protesters rallied outside a military recruiting station, demanding that troops be withdrawn from Iraq.
Police in London said 15,000 people joined a march from Parliament and Big Ben to a rally in Trafalgar Square. The anniversary last year attracted 45,000 protesters in the city.
In Turkey, where opposition to the war cuts across all political stripes, about 3,000 protesters gathered in Istanbul, police said. ''Murderer USA,'' read a sign in Taksim Square.
One of the biggest protests was in San Francisco, for decades a hub of anti-war sentiment. Police there estimated the crowd gathered outside City Hall at about 6,000 people. Many chanted slogans opposing Bush, and most appeared to hail from a distinctly grayer demographic than that of other protest events.
''There are not enough young people here,'' said Paul Perchonock, 61, a physician. ''They don't see themselves as having a stake.''
In his weekly radio broadcast, Bush defended the administration's record in Iraq, saying the decision to depose the regime of Saddam Hussein was ''a difficult decision - and it was the right decision.'' He pledged to ''finish the mission'' despite calls for withdrawal.
In Washington, a relatively small crowd of about 300 gathered at the Naval Observatory, where Vice President Dick Cheney lives, and marched to Dupont Circle. Debbie Boch, 52, a restaurant manager from Denver, said she and two friends bought plane tickets to Washington two months ago, before the demonstration had been planned. It was the fifth protest march she had attended since the war began, she said, and among the smallest.
''It's very disappointing, especially in Washington, D.C.,'' she said. ''You think this is the place where people come to make things happen. I'm just not sure why there aren't more people here today.''
At the Salt Lake City march and rally, protesters read and commented on each other's signs, like the large image of Bush carried by Gail Davis. Under the slogan "War dead on your head," the president's face was created out of a mosaic of photographs of dead U.S. soldiers.
Davis said she joins a peace vigil every Thursday night at the Bennett Federal Building at 125 S. State St. "We're not getting too many death threats anymore," said Davis, who works at as a manager at a law office. "Nobody's tried to run over us or anything for a while."
Darian Richards, 9, marched from Pioneer Park with a sign that read: "Bring my dad home." Richard Evans' said "Welcome to 1984," a reference to George Orwell's book. Others drew upon the messages of an earlier generation of activists: "I have a dream," one sign announced over a picture of jail bars printed over the faces of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Jacob Floyd, a 22-year-old Brigham Young University student, said he was thinking of the future when he decided to attend.
"I came today because I want to tell my kids I did everything I could to stand up for what's wrong in our country right now," he said.
Floyd announced his politics on his chest, thanks to a homemade white T-shirt with the headline "They lied" over the faces of administration officials, including Bush and Cheney, and the words "They died" over a list of names of dead U.S. soldiers.
Throughout the morning, a group of eight women dressed in pink-and-black outfits occasionally broke out in chants. "Resist, resist, raise up your fist," shouted Raphael Cordray of Salt Lake, one of the "Pom Poms Not Bomb Bombs" cheerleaders. "Show 'em that you're pissed. Resist, resist, fight the capitalists."
Cordray said the group of friends, who range in age from 22 to 55, were inspired by radical cheerleading groups in other states, and used chants as a way to express their political views in a lighthearted way. ''Some of the cheers we tone down for Salt Lake City,'' she said.
Tribune staff writer Ellen Fagg, The Associated Press and The New York Times contributed to this report.