Galvanized by the American attack on Iraq, thousands of anti-war activists around the country set off their own barrage of street protests, chaining themselves together, blocking workers and traffic, walking out of classes, and parading in mock chemical suits.

More than 1,500 people were arrested from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. But the anti-war groundswell brought out thousands of counterdemonstrators. One in Mississippi carried a sign saying, “Support the U.S. or keep your mouth shut.”

Yesterday was one of the heaviest days of anti-government protesting in years.

“This is no ordinary day,” said Jason Mark, a San Francisco activist. “America is different today: We’ve just launched an unprovoked, unjust war.”

One protester died after tumbling from the Golden Gate Bridge. Authorities were investigating the death as a possible suicide.

San Francisco had some of the largest anti-war activity, hobbling the morning and evening commutes. Thousands in roving bands temporarily took control of some downtown streets and closed several exits from the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Smaller splinter groups broke windows, heaved debris into streets and occasionally scuffled with police. Some protesters hurled rocks at trains, briefly halting service at a station in nearby Oakland.

“We went from what I would call legal protests to absolute anarchy,” Assistant Police Chief Alex Fagan Sr. said.

Police wearing helmets and carrying nightsticks made at least 1,025 arrests.

“We don’t want to alienate people. I hope people realize that political murder merits action that inconveniences them,” said protester Quinn Miller, who took the day off from his job for a banking company.

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