War protests roar throughout Bay Area cities
March 20, 2008 2:35 PM
Police, protesters clash downtown
“Shame!” roared the crowd of hundreds of people as a line of police officers wearing riot helmets and bearing batons tore through an anti-war banner spanning across Market Street.
“This is what a police state looks like!” came an amplified cry from a megaphone.
A marching band played a solemn funeral dirge from the sidewalk as about 15 people simulated dying, collapsing in the middle of Market Street on the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Invasion into Iraq.
“War kills everyone but corporations,” read a scrawled sign held up by one of the “die-in” protestors.
As about 100 police officers encircled the protesters and lined up around the perimeter of the sidewalk on Market and Kearny streets at 10:30 a.m., the act of civil disobedience disrupted traffic from all directions— cars were redirected to other routes, and a line of Muni buses was backed up through the intersection.
“Sieg Heil!” chanted an angry protester in the direction of the crowd of police as the marching band picked up the tempo, the bass drum pounding and horn section wailing.
Within half an hour, nearly all of the “die-in” protesters were arrested.
The loud congregation looking on from the sidewalk cheered and applauded as each protester was escorted single-file by two police officers, their hands tied behind their backs and their belongings thoroughly searched by the SFPD Bomb Squad in the middle of Market Street.
Vietnam War veterans joined the crowds of protesters and anti-war activists, determined to speak against the morality of war, regardless of country or generation.
“It brings tears to my eyes everyday to see young American men die every day in an unjust war,” said Vietnam war veteran Donald Desimone, 67. “It’s Vietnam repeated all over again, and there is no victory in sight.”
“It’s based on lies…all lies,” he continued. “Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction. It was an illegal invasion and it’s an illegal occupation.”
However, Desimone said that the massive turnout of anti-war action in downtown San Francisco represents the unity and power of the American people.
After witnessing the bloodshed of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968, another Vietnam War veteran at the protest said that he would never again support war in any form. He was severely beaten during San Francisco Vietnam war protests the same year, he said.
“We haven’t learned a thing [since the Vietnam War],” the veteran said. He requested to not be identified.
On the sidewalk near Market and Second streets, two masked men dressed like President George W. Bush and GOP presidential candidate John McCain lip-synched to the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Anne,” changing the lyrics to “Bomb Iran.”
Meanwhile, the Act Against Torture group marched down Market Street dressed in orange with black hoods over their heads to simulate the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay, with a woman pressing a prop machine gun into their backs.
Masked people dressed as Bush, Cheney, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein followed, enthusiastically giving a “thumbs-up” and smiling behind the line of prisoners while commuters getting off at the Embarcadero Muni stop exchanged confused looks.
The group is intended to promote human rights and draw attention to the Bush administration’s use of torture, which they condemn as highly immoral, said Rebecca Hensler, 39, a member of Act Against Torture and SF State alumna.
“I think we’re coming to a point when people will not be OK with the destruction of our constitution,” she said.
According to the organization, 500 people from 35 countries are being held without charge or the right to a fair trial at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
“Within 50 years, this government is going to be apologizing and paying reparations,” Hensler said. “Why wait until then?”
Anti-war activists target business, banks during demonstrations
The sound of sawing metal and police sirens pierced the early morning silence before the workday began. Many employees in the Financial District would show up late to their desks on March 19, the five-year anniversary of the war in Iraq.
At the main entrances of businesses such as Chevron at the California Center and the Federal Reserve Bank sat a barricade of anti-war activists who had chained themselves to the entry way. Each activist was locked in place by tubed metal boxes around their arms, connecting each other in angry unison. Some were locked onto oil barrels that were decorated with bold, hand-painted messages.
A swarm of helmeted police officers stood between the direct action and cheering supporters on the sidewalk and in the streets. Bicyclists, parade marchers, journalists, curious bystanders, suited employees, chained activists and police officers all were jumbled together within a cramped radius.
“On this day in 2003, the U.S. began Operation Iraqi freedom,” said President George W. Bush to a crowd of military personnel and political allies at the Pentagon Wednesday morning. “Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it. The answers are clear to me…This is a fight America can and must win.”
The crowds downtown evidently disagreed. An activist carried a sign saying, “I can’t believe I’m still protesting this shit!”
Among the parade marchers were members of Code Pink, Direct Action to Stop the War and people dressed in animal costumes. A woman wearing a homemade pigeon suit who claimed to be from the organization Animals for the Ethical Treatment of People had a sign that read, “Drop Crumbs, not Bombs.”
“As a pigeon I feel that I can get along with my fellow birds,” she said. “It’s people that have the problem with sharing resources.”
Michael Reagan, 27, an SF State graduate student studying history, was the media liaison for DASW. “In five years, over 600,000 Iraqis have died and we have spent $2.8 trillion,” he said. “It’s an abomination that this money goes to fund this blood bath. It could be spent on education at San Francisco State to ease the budget crisis that is going to decimate the university.”
At the Federal Reserve Bank, another DASW activist was screaming as a team of policemen used an electric saw to cut through the tubed metal box.
“When people use lock boxes, it’s so police can’t drill through them,” said Sarah, a DASW activist and UC Davis student who declined to give her last name. “But with their experience with direct action over the years, [the police have] learned how.”
As activists were untangled from the chains and metal tubes, each one was photographed, stripped of their “No War” accessories and escorted to a police van.
“They’ve held this place until 6:50 a.m., so about 50 minutes,” Sarah said. “The purpose of this is not only a symbolic representation, it’s a direct presence to use our bodies to convey a public message. We are using this space as a backdrop, it’s not meant to keep people from going in and out. There are side entrances.”
Patricia Gonzalez, 45, an administrative assistant for the Federal Reserve Bank, was one of a few employees who stayed outside to watch the protest.
“It’s interesting, when employees were coming to work the police told them to go around the back. I’m surprised they didn’t stick around to see what was going on,” said. “Why would I want to go up to my office when I can be here and witness something so important?”
You can also experience more multimedia.
POST A COMMENT
|BACK TO TOP|| |
Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University