Joining what was labeled across the United States as the epicenter of a nationwide protest against war with Iraq were a number of Mills students. Believing that their voices and opinions should be heard regardless of the consequences, some Mills women were arrested for blocking intersections on Market at First Street and Sansome Street.
Plans to stop everyday business were organized weeks prior to Bush’s announcement on Wednesday. Protestors decided that the morning following the declaration of war, they would take to the streets in San Francisco’s financial district.
It was 7 a.m. on March 20 when thousands of antiwar demonstrators converged and blocked intersections along Market Street, for one common objective: to shut down the city.
Although separated along Market, students were united in their anti-war sentiments.
Freshwomen Kathleen Stavis and Raeayanne Young, both part of Global Intifada an organization opposed to the war, joined other members of the their group in lockdown at Market and Sansome. As part of lockdown, Stavis and Young were linked together by PVC pipes. Concealed within the pipes, students were bound together using wires and rock climbing clips.
At first, police presence was minimal but within minutes the number of officers increased, and were soon joined by the fire department.
The first protestors arrested were those in lockdown. Unable to dismantle them without heavy machinery, firefighters were forced to use power saws to cut through the pipes.
“I really wasn’t prepared for it,” commented Young, “I was in serious emotional shock.”
Young said that while firemen were cutting through the pipes, there were neither blankets to shield protestors from metal sparks nor other precautions taken for the protesters safety.
Stavis found herself in a larger predicament compared to Young while in lockdown. Stavis said she was incorrectly hooked to the woman next to her, causing her arm to be located directly where firemen were sawing through.
“They didn’t stop,” said Stavis. “I was screaming don’t cut.” Luckily Stavis was able to clip herself off from the woman next to her and suffered only metal burns as opposed to amputation.
Once the lockdown was dismantled, Stavis and Young were taken to and held in pens constructed on the sidewalks, awaiting their departure to Pier 27.
Two hours later, at about 10:30 a.m., junior Sunshine Ludder and ASMC president Michele Roberts were arrested for blocking an intersection on Market and First. by sitting down and locking their arms and refusing police warnings.
Ludder was the first to be escorted to a bus that was taking protesters to Pier 27. She said that she wanted to be dragged to show she did not want to comply with police. Usually, police officers will ask the individual if he/she will stand up, and if the individual decides not to stand up, he/she is dragged or carried off the premises.
“[The cop] totally twisted my arm hard core and twisted my wrist and it forced me to jerk up,” said Sunshine. “Once I was standing up I told him to stop but he didn’t.”
Roberts followed Sunshine to the bus after she was also forced to stand up. Prior to boarding the bus, all protesters took polaroids with their arresting officer.
Sunshine and Roberts were taken to county jail at about 1:30 pm. Both were not released until the following morning at 1:00 am. Outside awaiting their release were other protesters with cold stew and lawyers from the National Guild Association gathering information from their citation.
Sunshine attributes the delay in her release because of the disorganization of how protesters were being processed in the system. Sunshine said that police were reading off the same ID’s to each cells; ID’s which belonged to no one in the cell. Finally, little by little, people were getting out and being processed.
“It was amazing to be with 40 other people [in a cell] and get along,” commented Sunshine about the atmosphere in the cells. “Despite the hardship, I will look back at it as a positive experience because was overall personally and tactfully important and effective.”
Stavis and Young were held for a much longer time outside in the pens. They were held at the pens from 8:30 a.m. till 2 p.m. They were then brought to Pier 27 where they were also held for a long period of time.
While being held at the Pier 27 warehouse, Young said that police officers were much more brutal. She said that there were juveniles handcuffed as oppose to having the plastic bands and that there were four officers beating down on one guy.
“They [police officers] used a lot of pain compliance that was unnecessary,” said Stavis.
Young said that she was not taken to county jail until 5 or 6 pm after being held for 4 hours. At county, both Stavis and Young declared their status as Jane Doe, where an individual decides not to give their true identity to be placed in solidarity. Stavis and Young were not released until the next morning at around 9 am.
An overall positive experience
Although there were some negative experiences from the police department, the protest as a whole was a positive one.
Roberts felt that the protest was effective. “There was an overwhelming feeling that getting arrested was the only thing to do,” said Roberts. “People wanted to do something but didn’t know what to do.”
Stavis shared the same sentiments about being arrested and held at the pier.
“We were really happy about the action,” said Stavis, “We were really proud of people acting- it was a positive experience.”