The aircraft carrier USS Ranger led a six-ship battle group under the Golden Gate Bridge Saturday to kick off the city's Fleet Week salute to the Navy despite a controversy over whether to allow the battleship USS Missouri to be home-ported there.

With sailors dressed in white lining the decks of the ships, thousands of spectators on shore cheered and waved, while dozens of anti-nuclear protesters launched a parade of their own, the so-called Peace Navy.As the Ranger and the other ships sailed into the bay, they were met - as they have been every year this decade - by the rag-tag Peace Navy, about 50 boats ranging from yachts to dinghies, plastered with anti-war and anti-nuclear banners and slogans.

Navy policy is to neither confirm nor deny whether any ships carry nuclear weaponry.

Members of the group Greenpeace circulated leaflets reading, "No matter how you look at it, having nuclear weapons in our bay is no cause for celebration."

The Navy and Coast Guard maintain a safety zone of 400 yards ahead of the first ship, 200 yards after the last ship and 200 yards on either flank. Any members of the Peace Navy entering the zones would be subject to arrest.

Erica Rosenthal, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, said the Coast Guard seized four of their inflatable dinghies and held them until the Navy ships had passed and tied up safely at piers.

"They didn't give us any explanation or anything," she said, adding that the group planned to file a formal complaint on Monday.

San Francisco is embroiled in a controversy over whether to allow the homeporting of the historic USS Missouri at San Francisco's Hunters Point. The issue will be decided on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Mayor Art Agnos is opposed to the Missouri, recommissioned in 1986, on economic grounds. The Navy wants the city to put up $2 million for dredging and provide continuing services.

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