WASHINGTON -- Hoping to spark the country's silent majority into action, 131 antiwar protesters got themselves arrested Thursday, in one of the larger acts of civil disobedience in front of the White House in some time.
Carrying signs that frequently included question marks -- "Peace on earth?" and "How is the war economy working for you?" -- protesters organized by a Missouri-based veterans group marched up to the White House gates and refused to disperse, holding their ground for several hours on a snowy and blustery day.
Among those arrested was Daniel Ellsberg, the Vietnam-era whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers as an act of protest in 1971. Thursday's arrest was his 80th.
All the arrests were appropriately peaceful although some protesters went limp, forcing police to carry them to the loaned Metrobuses waiting to take them to a booking facility. Only one protester actually attached himself to the gate with a bicycle lock.
All were charged with failure to obey lawful order, a misdemeanor, said Park Police spokesman David Schlosser.
Schlosser said the protesters would be released after either forfeiting $100 or accepting an assigned court date.
A new poll shows that a substantial majority of the country agrees with the protesters on some central points. As Amanda Terkel reports for the Huffington Post, the poll finds a record 60 percent of Americans now say the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting.
Before the mass arrest, speakers at the rally, which was attended by at least 500 people, attacked the war and defended WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning, the army officer suspected of leaking secret State Department cables to the website.
Earlier on Thursday, Ellsberg told a Washington news conference that Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange were no more deserving of prosecution than the New York Times, which published the Pentagon Papers in 1971, or Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, who helped uncover the Watergate conspiracy.
WATCH video excerpts of the arrests. Organizer Mike Ferner, the president of Veterans for Peace, gets dragged away, and Ellsberg flashes a peace sign before getting handcuffed.
Video by Dan Froomkin, edited by Ben Craw.