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Tens of thousands in S.F. demand Bush abandon war plans (SF Chronicle)

by San Francisco Chronicle Sunday, Jan. 19, 2003 at 9:52 PM
sherel@sfchronicle.com

From San Francisco to Washington, D.C., from Paris to Tokyo, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the world's streets Saturday to protest potential military action against Iraq by the Bush administration and its allies.

Tens of thousands in...
peacemarch35.jpg, image/jpeg, 329x550

Nation rallies for peace
Tens of thousands in S.F. demand Bush abandon war plans
Suzanne Herel and Zachary Coile, Chronicle Staff Writers
Sunday, January 19, 2003
©2003 SF Gate

From San Francisco to Washington, D.C., from Paris to Tokyo, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the world's streets Saturday to protest potential military action against Iraq by the Bush administration and its allies.

In Washington, where temperatures hovered in the mid-20s, as many as 500,000 protesters rallied outside the Capitol, while in San Francisco tens of thousands of peace activists marched up Market Street from the Ferry Building to City Hall.

With the Pentagon stepping up military preparations, including ordering more aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf, thousands of demonstrators in cities from Moscow to London to Cairo called on the Bush administration to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis.

The rallies drew people of all ages, races, religious denominations and political persuasions -- many of them saying that this was their first protest.

In San Francisco, peace activists started their march up Market Street at 11 a.m. and started arriving at City Hall at noon to listen to speeches by local and national luminaries.

Among them was Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who has gained allies and admirers since her vote on Sept. 14, 2001, as the lone dissenting voice in Congress against giving Bush open-ended authority to wage war against terrorists.

She took the stage to chants of "Barbara! Barbara!"

"The silent minority has become the vocal majority because of you," she told the cheering crowd.

The protest's organizers, a group called International ANSWER, estimated the crowd to number approximately 200,000. Police estimated the crowd to reach 55,000.

Lee invoked the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday is being celebrated Monday, urging the crowd to help eradicate the "axis of evil -- poverty, racism and war."

"It's not too late for the administration to heed our call," she said. "It takes leadership to resolve conflicts peacefully. It does not take leadership to drop bombs."


WASHINGTON PROTEST
In Washington, demonstrators bundled up in heavy coats, scarves and knit caps to listen to speeches by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, actress Jessica Lange and Ron Kovic, the Vietnam veteran and anti-war activist whose life story was depicted in the movie "Born on the Fourth of July."

Kovic, whose injuries as a soldier in Vietnam 35 years ago left him paralyzed from the chest down, reminded the crowd that protests had helped stop the Vietnam War and could do the same to prevent another war in Iraq.

"This fight will be won in the end by you -- by nonviolence, by compassion," Kovic said.

Bush spent the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David. But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer made clear last week that the president does not see the growing protests as evidence that support is fading for his policy toward Iraq.

"Most people who support what the president is doing are not going to take to the street to say, 'Disarm Saddam Hussein,' " Fleischer said.

At City Hall in San Francisco, folk singer Joan Baez led the crowd in a rendition of "Let Us Break Bread Together" and sang several other songs, including one in Arabic that she had a friend translate for her.

Actress Amy Brenneman had flown up from Los Angeles with her young daughter for the rally.

"I cannot imagine the world my daughter will inherit, and for the first time I am scared," she said.


MARTIN SHEEN
Perhaps the most popular speaker was the man who isn't president, but plays one on TV: Martin Sheen.

He orated with the vim and vigor of a religious revivalist, greeting the throng with the words, "Peace be with you."

"We want to end our long and shameful silence here today and say 'No' to death and war," Sheen shouted. "From this time forth, may all our thoughts, words and deeds be a nonviolent resistance to all violence. Let my country awake."

Behind the bandstand, on the steps of City Hall, stood a handful of pro-war demonstrators. Heckled by passers-by, they kept their signs held high: "Leftists Hate America," "Support Our Troops," "America's Enemies Thank You For Your Support," "Catholic for Bush."

One man on the steps said he came out because he supported removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

"Weapons of mass destruction are a serious thing," said Mike Ellis, 32, of San Francisco. "Something worse than 9/11 could happen."

Ellis, who is a graduate of West Point and has served in the U.S. Army, said his girlfriend was part of the larger peace march while he was speaking out for the necessity of war. He said, "Other than politics, we get along great."

Nearby, at United Nations Plaza, the women who make up Baring Witness -- who usually take off their clothes for peace -- covered up for Saturday's march. Each was dressed as a body bag -- draped head to toe in a black trash bag with a black hood.

"Americans don't care until they come home in body bags," explained volunteer Paul Reffell.

Julia Mathews, a retiree from Santa Rosa, said Saturday's was her first march since the Vietnam War.

"I'm so opposed to unilateral action," she said. "I think it's absolutely immoral."


FIRST PROTEST EVER
It was the first march ever for Jackie Grant, a retired community college counselor from San Rafael.

"Saddam is evil, but that is not a good enough reason for a war," she said.

Her husband, Nik Grant, sat next to her holding a sign that read, "If war is inevitable, start drafting SUV drivers now."

The couple had walked an alternate route of the march, starting at Grace Cathedral with several environmentalist groups and a caravan of 100 hybrid cars.

Nik Grant said he hadn't participated in a protest since the 1960s, but the current political environment was enough to get his hackles up -- and his feet walking.

"Bush has an attitude that provokes me," he said. "He acts like he represents all the people. We're here to show he doesn't."

Peace activists said they plan to increase the size and frequency of protests across the country -- even though they believe the president has already decided to send U.S. troops into battle within weeks or months.

A Newsweek poll released Saturday found that Americans, by 60 percent to 35 percent of those polled, want the Bush administration to allow more time to seek an alternative to war.

The poll also found that the administration would receive much stronger support for a military campaign, 81 percent, if it got the full backing of American allies and the United Nations Security Council.

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bogus photo choice ... I'll show you why ziggy Monday, Jan. 20, 2003 at 12:17 AM
Impressive (Not) Bush Admirer Monday, Jan. 20, 2003 at 7:50 AM
Answer photographer Peter Maiden hank dannewitz Friday, Jan. 31, 2003 at 9:24 PM
i hate Martin Shit! WarMonger Thursday, Apr. 03, 2003 at 1:06 PM
Yeah, War Monger Eat Shit and Die, War Monger Thursday, Apr. 03, 2003 at 1:45 PM
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