HEIDELBERG, Germany — Sgt. Peter Moulton and his wife just wanted to pick up a few groceries at the military shoppette around the corner from their house in downtown Heidelberg on Saturday afternoon.

But with thousands of protesters gathered outside the top headquarters compound for Army forces in Europe, the shoppette, which is just across the street from it all, was closed until further notice. Same for Catholic services at the Mark Twain Village Chapel along the same protest-clogged thoroughfare.

“Things have gotten pretty inconvenient,” said Moulton, his two kids zipping along a narrow Americans-only walkway guarded by dozens of German police as protestors railed against the U.S.-led war.

“It’s very stressful,” his wife Stephanie added. “It wasn’t nearly as bad before the war started, but now I feel threatened.”

Protests were a weekly event during the buildup for war against Iraq, but since the campaign began, rallies have become a near permanent fixture and sometimes turn ugly with youths lobbing eggs at U.S. military police, smashing bottles and other minor harassments.

The protests also have created traffic snarls leaving many local residents stuck for hours.

“It took me two hours to get back from lunch,” said Stephanie Moulton, who was eating only two miles from her job at Maryland University, just behind Campbell Barracks.

For soldiers like Spc. William Gilbert, the biggest inconvenience is a new order making all off-post bars and restaurants off limits.

“We can’t go anywhere — not even to McDonald’s,” Williams said. From his barracks just opposite Gen. B.B. Bell’s headquarters in Heidelberg, he had watched MPs being pelted with eggs on Thursday. But he thinks the new order is a little over the top.

On Saturday, some 7,000 protesters gathered again to denounce the U.S. war, according to Jorg Hofer, a German police spokesman. Four people were arrested at the end of the protest for refusing to leave, but other than those arrests, officials said there were no other problems.

“It was very peaceful,” Hofer said.

Mark Twain Village, an open housing area that is cut in half by a public road that has become the favored protest spot, was a virtual ghost town Saturday afternoon.

“There were some kids on Thursday who were throwing bottles and said we were all going to be bombed to hell,” said Tina Dwyer, who lives in the housing area. But the threats don’t faze her. “It’s more annoying that anything else,” she says.

Dwyer and her husband were among the few families outside during the protests.

Her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Guy Dwyer, says he’s determined to not let the protests interfere with his life.

“We’re not going to live in fear because of this,” he said, holding his place in a recipe book as the couple prepared to grill ribs and bratwurst. “Life must go on.”

Capt. Sandra Gossett, another resident, agreed.

But when she’s out walking her 2-month-old baby and 100-pound dog, she stays within the heavily guarded housing grounds.

“It’s not worth taking chances,” she said, especially with reports that protester have been badgering some Americans.

“They can protest all they want, but they shouldn’t be harassing us,” she said.

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