Today's protests smaller, more localized
Instead, Walls suggests, the massive demonstrations that defined the Vietnam anti-war movement have been replaced this decade by smaller, local efforts aimed at pressuring individual congressional leaders to withdraw troops and war funding. "I think there's the sense that the demonstrations aren't having an effect on the Bush White House," said Walls. "He doesn't consider the people marching to be a part of his constituency anyway. People have realized that, and it's reflected in the ways their tactics have changed."
Now, Walls says, local demonstrations, such as the weekly M Street gatherings, are preferred. Letters to local newspapers and congressional leaders have become more common, as have informational campaigns. Internet organizing has also emerged as an important tactic of the new movement.
And as the 2008 congressional and presidential elections grow closer, efforts to ensure the success of Democrats and "peace" candidates -- such as fundraising, donating time and money and working to increase turnout among certain voter groups -- will become the most important form of protest.
By mid-2005, more than half of Americans said they believed the fight in Iraq had made them less safe, according to a Washinton Post-ABC News poll.
More recent polls say as many as two-thirds of Americans think the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq.
The shift is visible at the corner of M and 22nd. "We get a lot fewer middle fingers now," says Grave.
Most Fridays, between 10 and 20 people turn out to demonstrate. Sometimes they draw as many as 40, other times as few as three or four. Unless it's raining, they stay an hour, beginning at 4:30 p.m.
On a few occasions they've walked letters and petitions to Rep. Dennis Cardoza's office down the street.
Who's in today's peace movement?
Most people there are middle-aged. A few are in their 80s and 90s, including one man who sat in a lawn chair one recent Friday holding a sign that read, "Good soldier, bad war." Sometimes a few college students show up.
"My schedule gets pretty busy, but I come as often as I can," said Kenneth Mackie, 52, a local attorney. "In my opinion, this war is one huge international war crime. We went into it on pretext, and the secondary concern now is that we're hearing the same drum beat that we did before all this started, only now it's for Iran."
A similar group gathers in Mariposa every Wednesday.
Ask Byerly Woodward if she thinks the demonstrations make a difference, and she says she's not sure. "It makes me feel a little better to come here, because at least I'm doing something," said the 64-year-old. "That's why I come, and I'll keep coming until I die, or until the war ends."
She says she also writes letters to editors at local newspapers expressing opposition to the war. "I protest when I can and I try to influence my congressman, but that's not all that easy."
Among the most apparent differences between this anti-war movement and the Vietnam era, experts agree, is activism -- or the lack of it -- on college campuses. At local schools, things have been markedly quiet, and many who attend the M Street demonstration say that's disappointing.
Simon Weffer, a UC Merced professor who studies social movements, attributes the quiet there to both the age of the campus -- it's only in its third academic year -- and to the lack of an active military draft.
"The stakes to young people on college campuses are so low right now," Weffer said. "For the most part, the people truly leading the anti-war movement are people who think they'll be affected by it."