Sheehan and several dozen other protesters sat down on the pavement on Monday after marching along the pedestrian walkway on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Police warned them three times that they were breaking the law by failing to move along, then began making arrests.

Sheehan, 48, was the first taken into custody. She was led to a police vehicle while protesters chanted: "The whole world is watching."

Others who were arrested also cooperated with police.

Sergeant Scott Fear, spokesman for the US Park Police, said they would be charged with demonstrating without a permit, which is a misdemeanour. 

Police arrested Sheehan for
demonstrating without a permit

Park Police Sergeant L J McNally said Sheehan and the others would be taken to a processing centre where they would be fingerprinted and photographed, then given a ticket and released, a process that would take several hours, he said.

Sheehan's 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in an ambush in Sadr City, Baghdad, last year. She attracted worldwide attention last month with her 26-day vigil outside President George Bush's Texas ranch.

Rally

She was among several hundred demonstrators who marched around the White House on Monday and then stopped in front and began singing and chanting "Stop the war now!"

The demonstration is part of a broader anti-war effort organised by United for Peace and Justice, an umbrella group.

Representatives from anti-war groups were on Monday meeting members of Congress to urge them to work to end the war and bring home the troops. 

"I would like to say to Cindy Sheehan and her supporters don't be a group of unthinking lemmings. It's not pretty... It gives the enemy hope"

Mitzy Kenny, whose husband died in Iraq last year and who supports the Iraq war

The protest following a massive demonstration on Saturday on the National Mall that drew a crowd of 100,000 or more, the largest such gathering in the capital since the war began in March 2003.

On Sunday, a rally supporting the war drew roughly 500 participants. Speakers included veterans of the second world war and the war in Iraq, as well as family members of soldiers killed in Iraq.

"I would like to say to Cindy Sheehan and her supporters don't be a group of unthinking lemmings. It's not pretty," said Mitzy Kenny, whose husband died in Iraq last year.

The anti-war demonstrations "can affect the war in a really negative way. It gives the enemy hope", she said.