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Anti-War, Anti-Bush rally and march in San Francisco

by DeAnander Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 02:38:06 AM EST

This is what democracy looks like...

I was in SF on March 18th for the anti-war, anti-Bush march and rally.  At the link above are some photos and comments.

This series of marches and rallies has been going on since before the (most recent) US invasion of Iraq.  It is organised by ANSWER, a sectarian Left group with the usual virtues and defects of such groups.  Among their defects are a fondness for megaphones and zealous young people shouting simplistic slogans;  but among their virtues are solid organising and logistical skills.  If you want buses to pick up demonstrators on time and get them to the rally, if you want the sound stage set up on time and working, sufficient portapotties on site and properly located, and negotiations with the City completed in time for the event, ANSWER will get it done.

Though they organise the events and provide piles of preprinted signage to hand out to marchers, they do not actually dominate the marches other than aurally;  the marches have a life of their own and the vast majority of participants have no connection to ANSWER, other than showing up for the carnival.  The events have a flavour which perhaps is found in other countries:  an element of street fair, brought by various freelance vendors of t-shirts, bumper stickers, jewellery, food and so on;  an element of benefit concert, with performers, tables gathering signatures for good causes, etc;  a small selection of esoteric Leftist sects peddling their very small newspapers and magazines;  a much larger selection of more ecumenical political organisations like Vets for Peace, offering their own literature and flyers;  a very small fringe of oddballs working the crowd with fliers for miracle cancer cures and guaranteed weight-loss programs;  and a very large crowd of people all making their own statements either in small bands or as individuals, with costumes, music, handmade signs, mini-performances, floats, etc.  I have been to enough of this type of event that it feels very comfortable and familiar, though I never like the intense noise level from the overdriven amplifiers of the sound stage.

The marches are genuinely diverse, and in my experience the mood has been upbeat and courteous;  different marchers and groups are generally polite and friendly to one another, and one sees fascinating juxtapositions like hoodie-clad wannabe gangsta boys marching w/in elbowing distance of uptight Marin yuppies, without any apparent jitteriness or hostility on either part.  Which is what 'coalition' means, I guess.  There is a wide spectrum of just about everything -- age, income, race, straightness/queerness, and political agenda.  There is a fair amount of anger being expressed, but in the context of a carnival atmosphere;  I have seen very little aggro either from marchers or cops.  The most hostility I've seen has been from the outnumbered counter-demonstrators, and even they restrict themselves to shouting.  Given Americans' reputation as violent, poorly-disciplined, antisocial boors, it's nice to see a large public event, even under the strained conditions of life in the US today, proceeding smoothly and for the most part amiably.

OTOH there is something ritualistic about these big marches.  They are coordinated months in advance with civic authorities, the route is planned and deviations are not permitted, cops restrict movement in certain areas (like behind the sound stage);  helicopters buzz overhead continuously;  police videographers and photographers document the event, but so do the press and ordinary citizens -- this leads to comical moments where police and citizens simultaneously and mutually point cameras at each other.  There is something tame about these planned, permitted, licensed, insured, coordinated events that suggests protest and dissent in America is so ineffectual that the ruling class can afford to indulge the masses in a bit of it every now and then.

Anyway, here is photographic evidence of dissent in America, such as it is, in my local area.

I'm so glad you posted this, DeAnander!  Those photos are great.  I was just saying the other day in whataboutbob's diary that we are marching here, but it's not being reported.  With that in mind, I went looking for coverage and couldn't find much.  But I hit the motherload on Flickr.

I was going to attempt to do a diary, but I'm too muzzy still from my cold.  I'll try to add some in the comments here.

First, on BooTrib, here's a diary by Damnit Janet of the protest in Portland, Oregon.  Some excellent photos!

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 02:59:37 AM EST
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Photo by get directly down.

Another Chicago set by pauldub.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 03:10:31 AM EST
Here's a good set of photos in San Francisco by Steve Rhodes and another by roger jones.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

This photo from the set by hep.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 03:19:35 AM EST
Photo from a set by sahst23.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

I'm too tired to do any more, but I also recommend this set from today's march on the Pentagon w/Cindy Sheehan by Matthew Bradley.

Just exploring the tag antiwarprotest is fun.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 03:25:44 AM EST
Spot-on diary, especially the part on ANSWER and the ending. Regarding the former, this has been my impression too from the fact that even anti-war Libertarian bloggers (as far ideologically from ANSWER as it can be) wrote favorably about former mass protests which, say, MarekNYC denounced because of ANSWER's loonie-leftism. Regarding the latter, indeed where are the blockades of military bases and sit-strikes, which were there during Vietnam.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 04:23:09 AM EST
Of course, it would be much better if some staying-home anti-war moderates and non-loonie hard-left would stop moaning at ANSWER and instead start to organise mass protests themselves, leaving ANSWER to praise Kim Jong-Il on their own mini-protests.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 04:28:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What "loonie-lefitist" stances did Marek denounce?  Surely ANSWER isn't really supporting Lil' Kim.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 09:00:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent DeAnander! Nothing more to say, I agree with you on just about everything in your diary, and I enjoyed seeing your pics. The only notable difference I can see with the pics I posted on Saturday about the Toulouse anti-CPE demonstration, is that there seem to be have been a lot more men in blue in SF than there were here.
by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 04:33:49 AM EST
Feeling strengthened just by looking at the pictures.

Maybe marches can not change anything in and of themselves. On the other hand they might give a sense of what is possible to do and break the feelings of isolation and depression many feels when faced with the power-structures of today.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 11:54:25 AM EST
Thanks for this story.  People really piss on marches a lot these days, saying they accomplish nothing and make liberals look bad, somehow.

But I think this is a self-fulfilling prophesy.  No one goes because they are told it is ineffective, and when no one shows up, yeah, it is less effective. And if taking to the streets to protest en masse is so lame an ineffective, why is it so difficult to get permission from the authorities to do it?  Plus, in this day when if it isn't on the news it didn't happen, it is important to have footage of dissent.  Even if it isn't aired, it is documented for perpituity.

I hear the one in Chicago was tame, 10-7,000 people.  The one we had when the war began was not.  Lots of arrests, police abuse; I saw pregnant women and little kids being pushed around by the police.

FYI, I wasn't able to march on Sat as I was entertaining family, my neocon family, in the most bourgoise way I can imagine: High tea at the Drake Hotel, harpist, Devonshire cream, and all...  I should be shot...


Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 12:27:36 PM EST
That reminds me - I took part in a May Demo in London five years back  and while I was outside protesting, planting hemp seed and reclaiming parliament square, my future wife (unbeknown to me at the time, we met 7 days later) had high tea at the Savoy, celebrating her birthday...
by PeWi on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 06:41:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That was also the first time that I came in contact with "Democratic Underground" and the precursor of live blogging, even though the guy doing it, did not call it that back then.
by PeWi on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 06:43:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
oh, I am getting old. It was 2000. nearly six years!
by PeWi on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 06:46:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great photo sequence. And I agree with poemless about demos. Saying they're ineffectual is giving up on taking back a parcel of public space for collective use (I don't count driving round individually in jamjars on wheels as a collective use), even if it's done under surveillance and control and even if it's temporary.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 02:57:16 PM EST
Of course you are for collective use of the public sphere for political demonstrations. ;)

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 03:23:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see my multiple identities are catching up with me!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 03:40:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot to say that one of the women I photographed, I forget now which one, laughed nervously afterwards and seemed to be wondering whether she felt all right about giving me permission.   I said to her and her friend, "I promise you I am NOT with the FBI or CIA or any other alphabet soup outfit."  She laughed again, more freely, and said, "To tell you the truth I was wondering if my name might end up on some No Fly list..."

I think one has to grok the extent to which frequent cheap air travel is regarded as an entitlement of citizenship in the US to understand the diameter of the stick the HSA and related bureaucracies can wave over people's heads with these secret no-fly lists.  Me, I fly only when my employer forces me to or other urgent reason, never casually.  But most Americans with any resources fly all the time, and consider it nearly as natural as making a telephone call or sending email.  So the threat of being on a No Fly list has a peculiar resonance for middle class Americans.

Just a cultural note.  Not since McCarthy have I heard affluent WASP Americans utter this kind of anxiety over what their government might do to them to punish their exercise of the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of  public assembly and speech.

At the march I saw one man, middle-aged, heavy-set, Anglo, dour of countenance, conservatively dressed:  he strode along on the sidewalk apparently ignoring the event, except that one of his hands was holding aloft, over his head, a bound copy of the Constitution of the United States of America.  He marched like this, one hand raising the pamphlet above the heads of the crowd, until I was distracted and lost sight of him.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Mar 21st, 2006 at 06:59:01 PM EST
Thank you, DeAnander...I was despairing a bit the other day...wondering where the American's were. So this definitely helps my spirits to know that stuff is going on. But I have great concerns about the lack of media coverage...it is getting clearer to me that that is the big issue...corporate control of the news.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Mar 22nd, 2006 at 04:04:59 AM EST

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