DEARBORN, Michigan (CNN) -- Shortly after television pictures Wednesday showed U.S. troops toppling a huge statue of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, about 2,000 people in the heavily Arab-American community of Dearborn, Michigan, gathered to celebrate.
Many held signs that read "Free Iraq" and "Thanks USA!" One read "Saddam gone with the wind." Many women, wearing headscarves, happily held their children, who waved American flags.
"We are 4 million in exile," said Husham al-Husainy, a leader of the Muslim Iraqi community here. "Two million people got killed by Saddam. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in prison. What do you expect? It is a celebration. Thank God."
The peaceful crowd came together along the city's Warren Road, which is a main street of the area's Arab-American neighborhood, said Dearborn Police Sgt. Walter Anhut.
The seemingly spontaneous rally apparently was sparked by TV pictures of Iraqis dragging the head of a larger-than-life statue of Saddam through the streets of Baghdad Wednesday evening.
A U.S. Marine armored recovery vehicle toppled the statue from its pedestal in the capital's Firdos Square as a crowd of Iraqis danced and waved the country's pre-1991 flag.
In Dearborn, many celebrators shouted their thanks to President Bush and the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq, Anhut said.
As cheerful Arab-Americans filled the streets, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Washington declared Wednesday "a good day for the Iraqi people" amid evidence that Saddam's rule was crumbling under the weight of U.S.-led military attacks on the Iraqi military.
At one point the crowd turned on a three-person television crew from the Arab language news network Al-Jazeera, crowding around them and chanting "Down, down Al-Jazeera!"
Many in the crowd waved their hands in the air -- their thumbs pointed down -- and accused the network of being in cahoots with Saddam's regime.
"Saddam paid Al-Jazeera $20 million a year for their reports, and they never reported how many people he killed," said demonstrator Kevin Altamimi.