Daytime Iraq protests end in SF's Mission District
March 20, 2008 2:34 PM
Looming storm clouds and a forecast of rain did not deter thousands of protesters from gathering in Civic Center Plaza Wednesday evening, where the young and old came together to hold an anti-war rally and protest march on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War.
“We’re here today to voice our opinion of the war, and to demand change and respect for our veterans,” said Ian Sharpe, a former soldier who spent a year serving in Iraq and is a member of a veterans group against the war.
“We want to bring this war to the forefront of the national agenda,” he added.
Organizers from the Act Now To Stop War End Racism coalition said they expected thousands of attendees at event, which marked an end to a busy day of similar protests against the war and the current Bush administration in San Francisco.
A number of speakers appeared on a portable stage to rally the growing crowd as the event continued into the evening.
“What could we have done with the $500 billion used for the war,” shouted Tony Gonzalez, a representative of the American Indian Movement, a group that is against the war.
“We are two steps away from a fascist state…we must remain vigilant,” he said to loud applause.
Despite a low turnout early on, a large number of protesters waving Iraqi flags and holding signs denouncing the war eventually gathered near the intersection of Grove and Polk streets.
“Their just screwing things up for other people,” said one frustrated evening commuter as he made his way upstream against the growing river of protesters who had begin their march down Van Ness Avenue and Market Street.
A visibly large contingent of police blocked traffic and insured the gathering stayed non-violent.
Police estimated that about 2,000 people attended the rally and march, and they reported that no arrests were made, calling the event “relatively peaceful.”
During the rally, about fifteen members of the College Republicans from SF State and UC Berkeley gathered to voice their disapproval over the anti-war protest as they waved American flags and held up signs reading “Home of the Free because of the Brave”.
“We want to denounce the radicalism that permeates these events,” said Leigh Wolf, a SF State student and BECA major. “This is not anti-war…this is anti-America.”
“By being here today, we hope to uphold the traditional values of democracy and patriotism that make America great,” he said.
After a brief shouting match with a much louder and larger group of anti-war protesters, police moved the anti-protest group across the street, where they continued to wave American flags and hold up signs in front of City Hall.
‘Moving us over here was a safety issue which I totally understand,” said UC Berkeley student Alexandra Hartline. “We’re here to support our troops and their mission…we love doing this type of activism.”
As the relatively quiet rally evolved into an organized march, a diverse and upbeat crowd chanted, sang, blew horns and beat on drums while cars stopped near blocked intersections and honked their horns in a show of support as the protesters winded their way through downtown San Francisco.
The anti-war march ended at 24th and Mission streets were a vigil was to be held.
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