The president of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument committee held the ladder for activists who hung a chain of paper cranes from the gun barrel of one of the statues and tossed daisies, carnations and other flowers around the monument in downtown's Public Square.
"This monument is an anti-war monument," committee president Neil K. Evans said. "It tells the horror of conflict that is the necessary price of freedom."
The protest and a counter-demonstration in support of military troops were among rallies and church services around Ohio the day after war began with Iraq.
"We want to respect the dead by trying to protect those who are still living," said Dianne Schurr, 43, one of the 10 allowed to climb about 15 feet up a statue of Civil War soldiers in battle, one of four smaller figures that encircle a 125-foot tower in the center of the monument.
"We can support the individuals who are involved in it and at the same time that we can voice our opposition loud and clear that this war is wrong," Schurr said.
About a half dozen counter-protesters stood on the edge of the rally, holding signs in support of U.S. troops.
Dennise Linville, 33, of Cleveland, had a placard declaring President Bush a hero.
"I have children and if this (Iraq) is not taken care of now, in five or 10 years they're going to be the ones who will have to go in the military and take care of it," Linville said.
"I'm not pro-war, but something needs to be done and done now."
When the anti-war protesters arrived, about three dozen deputies from the county sheriff's office surrounded the monument and blocked the staircases with yellow crime-scene tape to prevent the demonstrators from decorating it.
"We don't want to see anyone climbing up and getting injured," he said. "We don't want to see the property defaced in any way," said Chief Deputy Daniel Pukach.
But county officials huddled with Evans and the protesters to work out a deal.
Cuyahoga County Administrator Dave Reines said, "I'd like to avoid arresting them. This is a free country. And that's actually what we're fighting about over there."
Ultimately, the 10 protesters were allowed to decorate one of the four small monuments.
A group of the protesters left the memorial and marched through Cleveland streets during rush hour, blocking traffic. Police, who estimated the crowd to be about 150, escorted the group.
"I really feel like an American today, especially being here doing this," said protester Kathryn Byrne, a Kent State University student.
One man, Tony Amador, came out of his office building to see what the noise was about.
"I think this is a time of war and we as a people really need to present a united front," he said. "I don't know if these people are giving consideration to the families of the troops who were over there fighting."
At a Mass earlier at St. John Cathedral in Cleveland, Roman Catholic Bishop Anthony M. Pilla told worshippers, "It's a time to turn to the Lord."
Pilla said he was thinking about the families of military members. The Iraqi people, who live in a regime that has shown disregard for life, also are deserving of prayers, he said. "The gospel demands it. We must pray for the people of Iraq."
A few hundred anti-war protesters tried to disrupt rush hour traffic in downtown Cincinnati. At least four were taken away in handcuffs when they refused to leave a crosswalk.
The "Not in Our Name" protest was organized by the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center and was heavily promoted by e-mails.
In Columbus, a few hundred protesters chanted "bring our troops home" in front of the federal building downtown as some played drums or guitars.
Folk singer Joan Baez, who was in town for a concert Friday, stopped by the protest.
"There's no better place to be than here," said Baez, who has been outspoken about her opposition to the war. "I'm here because I think the way sensible people think."
Ohio State University student John Lehman, 23, was one of many protesters who brought sleeping bags and warm clothes to stay overnight.
"A lot of my friends were just in tears just because a lot of people are going to die," he said. "We're here to be in solidarity with the world."
Several hundred students gathered at an anti-war rally at the University of Akron, but part of the crowd consisted of supporters of the war who waved a large American flag and chanted "U.S.A! U.S.A!"
The war opponents answered back with their own chants of "U.S.A!," and the event broke up after less than an hour.
The Associated Press