Tourists gawked and motorists honked as protesters young and old rallied on the Las Vegas Strip Saturday against the possible war with Iraq while an anti-war demonstration in Reno may have been the largest there since the early 1970s.
In Reno, police estimated 400 people turned out under sunny skies for the protest Saturday on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. No problems were reported.
Richard Siegel, a political science professor at UNR, said it was the biggest turnout for a peace rally in Reno since anti-Vietnam War protests of the early 1970s. He estimated the crowd at 600.
"The turnout is very impressive. It shows me young people are prepared to come out early against the war. We definitely have a cross-section of age and class here today," Siegel said.
During Saturday's rally, protesters listened to folk music, performed a skit poking fun at President Bush and took a "pledge of resistance" promising to use non-violent means to resist the possible war.
A counter-demonstrator stood facing the crowd with a placard that read: "Send in the Marines! Support Our Troops. Go Get 'Em George W."
"We didn't let Adolph Hitler run around. If we don't stop Saddam Hussein, who will?" asked Bush supporter Steve Schwen, 49, of Sparks.
Organizers of the Reno rally collected more than 1,300 signatures on a no-war petition.
"I'm against all war. We have to solve our differences through peaceful means," said Scott Ackley, a 37-year-old Truckee, Calif., graphics designer who held a placard that read: "No Oil War."
"I don't think (Saddam) poses a direct threat to the United States. He only poses a threat to our oil supply and his immediate neighbors. We have to think about alternatives to oil," Ackley said.
The chief sponsor of the Reno rally was the Reno Anti-War Coalition and the Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace, a peace group operating in the area for 20 years.
The latter group has been hosting weekly peace vigils in front of the federal building in Reno since the bombing in Afghanistan began more than a year ago.
In Las Vegas, groups from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and residents hoisted signs that said "Tell Bush No!" and "Dead Children, Cheap Oil. God Bless King George the Butcher."
Another banner read: "We can bomb the world to pieces. But we can't bomb the world to peace." One man held up a fitting sign for Las Vegas: "Elvis hates war."
Protesters sang "We Shall Overcome" and chanted loudly to try and drown out the song "God Bless the USA" blaring during the water fountain show outside the Bellagio hotel-casino. They then marched down the Strip to Tropicana Avenue and back to the Bellagio.
Police estimated the crowd at 200, although protesters said it was much larger. One man was arrested for getting out of a van on the Strip and trying to come toward the protesters with a knife, police said.
"We feel this war is not directed at weapons of mass destruction," said Raman David, 20, a UNLV student who has relatives living in Iraq. "It's an attempt to gain control of Iraq's oil."
People rallied in cities across the country and the world Saturday, including tens of thousands in Washington, D.C. in an emphatic dissent against preparations for war in Iraq.
In Las Vegas, Judy Treichel, 62, heard about the rally on the Internet, and decided to bring her two grandsons to their first protest.
"I don't believe in this war," 12-year-old Jeromey Treichel said, holding a peace sign. "This war sucks."
Tourist Ruth Druhan, 77, of Silver Springs, Md., said bombing Iraq won't do any good.
As for Saddam, Druhan said: "I think we should just let him go, and God will take care of him."