March 17th, 2003


protest number 4

My roommate and I went to the protest on Saturday, despite fear of rain. Actually, this is the second time that rain was predicted for the day of the protest, but it turned out to be a really nice day instead. Either the rain gods are on the side of peace, or the weather forecasters are on the side of war and are conspiring to have fewer people come out to protest. Another suggested conspiracy theory is that the protests are actually organized by BART.

We ran into J&B on the train to the city, rather fortuitously, so we got to spend the whole afternoon with them. This march tried to be a little different, starting at Civic center and following a big mirror-image question mark path to another park to the north-west. The timing was unfortunate, because when we arrived, we had to listen to about an hour of political speeches. And even when I agree with a cause, political speeches are hard to endure -- they are either boring, or use very questionable arguments. After a while, I started wondering if there was any point to these protests (especially since there seemed to be fewer people than last month), and was generally kind of depressed.

But then the march started, and what a marked difference it was to march among thousands of people cheering for peace rather than listening to someone speak on stage. My spirits were instantly lifted. For about half the march we were alongside this highly energetic group, working the crowd around them to yell out cheers, from the simple "hey, ho, hey, ho, we don't want this racist war," to an entire rendition of "the FBI is all over town," set to the obvious Christmas carol. There were many clever signs, as usual,
including "The last time someone listened to a Bush, they ended up wandering the desert for 40 years," and "So many signs -- and Bush can't read." Someone even had the same Verizon idea as Russell and I, and put a little "V" checkmark on a sign with the subtitle "Can you hear me now?" I had actually considered making a different version of the sign, with an actual person doing a peace sign, but couldn't find an appropriate photo in time.

Another theme was, of course, the infamous "freedom" fries. People were yelling out "Vive la France" and someone was standing on the sidewalk holding up a bottle of wine and a baguette, with the sign "make baguettes not bombs." Cute. Also there was a lot of: "if war breaks out, walk out." A friend of mine has been working with Direct Action to Stop the War; it seems like a good methodology, but it really depends on a large number of participants. And it's a lot more extreme than going to a protest, so I don't know how well it would work out. [I mean, I'm willing to not come to school, but chances are, no one would notice. I don't know if I'd be up for barricading a street and, presumably, getting arrested.]

On my way out, I saw a strange altercation between a police and someone who must have been a protestor. I don't know exactly what happened, but they had blocked off a part of market and were handcuffing someone and telling others to get out of the street. In what I can only assume to be a response to an increasingly angry crowd gathering around them, they gathered over 20 officers on Aprillia enduro bikes (I hadn't seen those in use by police before) who effectively formed a barrier between the sidewalk and the road. I stood and watched for a while, but in the end, the police objectives were accomplished -- the person was taken away, and everyone dispersed. It really makes me wonder how the police would feel about the "direct action" tactics, caught on the other side of this issue. Someone pointed out the irony that a possible charge the police can bring in this case is "disturbing the peace."