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Activists hold 'virtual march' on Washington

'Virtual' protesters tied up telephone lines at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
'Virtual' protesters tied up telephone lines at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

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CNN's Maria Hinojosa reports on the telephone and Internet campaign against the U.S. waging war against Iraq (February 26)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Anti-war protesters made their voices heard in Washington on Wednesday, swamping Senate and White House telephone switchboards, fax machines and e-mail boxes with hundreds of thousands of messages opposing military action against Iraq.

The "virtual march" was organized by Win Without War, a coalition of 32 organizations including the National Council of Churches and, which claimed that more than 400,000 people registered to participate in the call-in campaign.

By day's end, Win Without War national director Tom Andrews said the number of calls and faxes exceeded 1 million. So many calls were received for the virtual anti-war protest that the Capitol's phone system jammed at one point, impeding calls to Democrat and Republican senate offices. No official estimates of calls could be obtained, but several senators reported increased call volumes.

"The message is don't invade Iraq, don't occupy Iraq when it's unnecessary. We don't have to kill innocent people," Andrews said. "We don't have to put Americans at risk. We don't have to give Osama bin Laden a tremendous boost in terms of the capacity to recruit terrorists, suicidal terrorists, and destabilize that region."

Using virtual communication

Anti-war activists say the virtual world has made their work easier. Using e-mail and the Web, it took weeks to pull together millions of activists around the world for large-scale street demonstrations on January 18.

The group that organized the January protests, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), said rallies were held in 25 countries. ANSWER said it had organized transportation from more than 200 U.S. cities in 45 states for the rallies in Washington and San Francisco -- much of it using e-mail, the Web and phone calls.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat who has supported military action in Iraq, said her office got so many calls Wednesday she assigned six staff members to answer phones. The hundreds of calls received Wednesday added to about 40,000 she's already gotten in the last 30 days.

"I've learned when they get up over 30,000 to 40,000 from California, then I know there is really a movement," Feinstein said. "These 40,000 phone calls we've received is probably the highest number of phone calls we've gotten for anything."

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