Thousands of protesters gathered on the streets on San Francisco on Thursday as part of an effort to shut the city down and bring activity to a stand still through protests and acts of civil disobedience.
This was one of numerous protests taking place around the country and the world the day following the United States’ declaration of war on Iraq.
Demonstrators came together at the break of dawn at most major intersections of Market Street in San Francisco declaring a day of civil disobedience. They chose this location because Market Street is considered to be the financial center of San Francisco as well as one of the busiest streets in the city.
Protestors joined hands and linked arms side by side spanning the breadth of the street blocking traffic and patrol cars. One group wearing orange safety jackets calling themselves Code Orange for Liberation was joined by metal sleeves participated in a lockdown on Market Street.
In an effort to clear the intersection, the fire department had to cut through the PVC pipes with a powersaw. Sparks from the friction and the heat produced from the cutting burned the protestors and further excited the crowd. Another group armed with their yoga mats and bare feet took to the sidewalk practicing yoga poses.
Protestors were warned to clear the street and those who didn’t were soon surrounded by police officers and then arrested.
Those who weren’t arrested stood on the sidewalk chanting different anti-war slogans such as “Ain’t no power like the power of the people, and the power of the people don’t stop!” In addition to this there were many onlookers peering through their office windows.
Many attended the protest to show solidarity and speak out against the war.
“It is dangerous for the United States to be taking precedence with unilateral pre-emptive action against another country,” said musician Robert Smith. “There is no justification for the war, we are not in any peril. It’s not a war of self-defense, but a war of aggression. I protest the changing of this country into an empire.”
“I’m sickened by the administration and the government,” added Phillip Sevilla a student at Golden Gate University. “We are not accomplishing anything but death by this war.”
Although many commuters complained calling the convergence of demonstators a misguided attempt, protestors later called the day of civil disobedience a success.
“It is important as a U.S. citizen to show people that we don’t’ support the war,” said UC Davis student Scenery Girdner. “I don’t believe its about getting Sadaam, it’s about oil. Our economy depends on it.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 1,500 officers were placed on duty for Thursday’s protest, costing the city of San Francisco $500,000 in police overtime.
By around 11 p.m. when the protests wound down, officials estimated that over 1,400 people were arrested at the various demonstrations across the city.
ASMC president Michelle Roberts was among those who chose to be arrested because “It feels powerful to do something tangible.”
Like Roberts many others felt that this form of civil disobedience would be the most powerful and effective.
“It’s better than being pushed out of the way,” said Mills student Sunshine Ludder who was arrested alongside Roberts. “My friend just had a baby and I’m doing something for the future.”
Protests happened all over the Bay Area and the world on Thursday with over 1,500 students gathering in Sproul Plaza at the University of California, Berkeley campus.
One observer who was part of the original demonstrations during the Vietnam War and who saw the students on television said it reminded her of “one of the early protests at Sproul Plaza during the time.”
In Oakland 600 to 1,000 people gathered around City Hall and some marched down Broadway reported the San Francisco Chronicle.
Two more large-scale protests were planned in San Francisco for the rest of the weekend with the first on Friday that was here the mimic Thursday’s events and the latter congregating at the Civic Center.
The protest was mostly peaceful but as the day progressed officials said that they got a little more violent.
One commuter on his way home from his 4th and Mission Street office saw an angry group of bicyclists attacking a car. Shortly after the car sped away, police officers armed in riot gear arrived on the scene.
“I thought they were gonna pull him out of his car and start beating him,” he said.