JIM LEHRER: Now, onward with the Republican Convention. Yesterday was the day of protest here in New York. Thousands of people marched and otherwise showed their displeasure with President Bush and his policies, particularly over the war in Iraq. Kwame Holman has our report.
SPOKESMAN: The 2004 Republican National Convention...
KWAME HOLMAN: As the Republican Convention got under way below street level today outside a tightly secured Madison Square Garden, veterans protested Bush administration cuts in health care benefits...
WOMAN: We wouldn't mind a little more tax cuts.
KWAME HOLMAN:...While 25 blocks north, costumed demonstrators portraying the super-rich parodied the president's economic policies.
DEMONSTRATORS: More tax cuts for us, less health care for you.
KWAME HOLMAN: But across much of Manhattan today, commuters took back the streets in the wake of yesterday's mammoth antiwar march. Sunday's procession filled Seventh Avenue, crossed 34th Street, then down Fifth Avenue, stretching for two miles at some points, and lasting nearly six hours.
Police closed off more than 30 city blocks to traffic for most of the day. Among the tens of thousands of marchers were some famous faces, including anti-Bush activist and film director Michael Moore.
MICHAEL MOORE: We are the majority of this country. The majority of this country opposes this war. The majority of this country wants the Bush administration out of office. The majority of this country never voted for the Bush administration.
KWAME HOLMAN: Jesse Jackson and actor Danny Glover were among leaders of the demonstration. The eclectic crowd spanned from the young to the old.
WOMAN: I'm a grandmother. I'm here with my grandson, Thomas. And for all the other young children, but I want this country-- which is a great country-- to be safe, to be healthy, and to be strong, but with the right values of love and cooperation and peace, and not war.
KWAME HOLMAN: They carried signs proclaiming their views on a variety of issues, but one issue seemed to dominate: Protest against the Iraq war.
DEMONSTRATORS: Corporate profits on the rise, but soldiers have to bleed and die.
DEMONSTRATORS: But soldiers have to bleed and die.
KWAME HOLMAN: Yesterday's march ended with a thousand mock coffins draped in black or American flags, representing the U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. According to new national polls, public support for the war in Iraq is waning. In a CBS News survey conducted earlier this month, 49 percent of Americans said the United States did the right thing in taking military action in Iraq, while 44 percent said the U.S. should have stayed out.
That's down sharply from December's poll, when 64 percent said the U.S. did the right thing in Iraq, while 28 percent said it had not. Past the convention site at Madison Square Garden, thousands of police officers and National Guardsmen kept a close watch on yesterday's protest. New York City police refused to give an estimate of the number of participants, but some officials said the crowd numbered from 100,000 to 200,000.
Organizers said the headcount was half a million. While the demonstrations mostly were peaceful, there were arrests. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly spoke at a news conference yesterday.
RAYMOND KELLY: The organizers for United for Peace and Justice should be commended for keeping their word. They pledged that the demonstrators would follow the march route, and that's exactly what happened.
As of late this afternoon, we recorded approximately 200 arrests. Most of the arrests were for disorderly conduct and occurred away from the march itself.
KWAME HOLMAN: A small group of self-proclaimed anarchists set fire to a papier-mâché float one block from Madison Square Garden, but police quickly extinguished the flames. Police have issued permits for about 30 more rallies in New York City this week.