Published on Sunday, September 30, 2001 in the San Francisco Chronicle
Peace Activists Rally
Thousands Protest in San Francisco, DC
by Alan Gathright, John Wildermuth and Henry K. Lee
Vowing to redefine patriotism, thousands of peace activists rallied in
San Francisco and Washington yesterday to mourn American terror victims -- and
to urge the nation to work to heal the poverty and injustice that fuels global
violence instead of focusing on military revenge.
"We are in pain. It is a great tragedy that all of us have witnessed," Pakistani writer Zulfikhar Ahmad told the crowd.
If a U.S. attack on terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan kills innocent civilians, it could inflame anti-American fervor in the Islamic world, he said.
"I am very afraid that there is a very big tragedy in the making and it will be the biggest dishonor to the memory of 6,000 innocent people who have died."
The rally was a multigenerational family affair for Marilyn Griffith, 69, and her daughter Tory, 40, who have been demonstrating together since a 7- year-old Tory used to ride on her mother's shoulder at Vietnam War protests.
"We want to reclaim the imagery of patriotism," said Tory, 40, a political organizer and theatrical producer with the San Francisco Mime Troupe.
"Peace is patriotic," her mom chimed in. "Patriotism doesn't mean you don't speak out."
The passionate but upbeat rally -- estimated at 7,000 to 10,000 -- bounced to the bountiful rhythms of Aztec warrior dancers and hip-hop rappers, Dixie Land jazz and the high-pitched Arab ululation. Later the drum-beating, bell- banging crowd marched through the Mission District, carrying a giant, jug- eared President Bush puppet and signs proclaiming, "Vengeance Is Not Justice" and "Save American Lives By Stopping U.S. Aggression Abroad."
Chanting in a poetic rhythm, Arab American activist Eman Desouky said: 'I am frightened for my people, ya'll. . . . As the noose tightens around Arab civil liberties, as the FBI begins to round us up, we stand in fierce solidarity with our Japanese American brothers and sisters who have suffered and resisted the internment camps of the 1940s.
"As Arabs (and) Muslims get kicked off airplanes, as our homes are vandalized, as our children are terrorized, we stand in fierce solidarity with the African Americans who suffered and continue to suffer through the ugly history of racism in this country."
In Washington, more than 3,000 people gathered to march in the name of peace.
"Even our friends have said this is not a time to speak," said Mara Verheyden-Hillard of the Partnership for Civil Justice. "But we will not be silenced."
Many of the Washington protesters originally had planned to be in town this weekend for much larger demonstrations at the annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
When those meetings were called off after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the focus of those protests was quickly changed. Nonetheless, about 1,000 demonstrators, many of them clad in black and wearing bandannas over their faces, marched through Washington to the World Bank headquarters yesterday, shouting anti-capitalist slogans.
"We're here to stop the war on the poor," said Jan, a protester from Richmond, Va.
Hundreds of police officers in full riot gear shadowed the march, closing off streets and keeping the demonstrators from straying off their route. Once at the World Bank, police sealed off the square, trapping the demonstrators there for more than an hour.
"This is a peaceful, patriotic march and we're being treated like criminals, " said a protester from Bethesda, who gave her name only as Heather.
The protesters' original plan had been to surround the White House or demonstrate in nearby Lafayette Park, but the Secret Service and Park Police turned down those options. The protest leaders finally decided to gather for a three-hour rally and then march to a park near the Capitol building.
"I call on our government to refrain from bringing the suffering we have endured (from the terrorist attacks) to other innocent people," said Eleiza Braun, a student activist from George Washington University. "There has to be an end to hate, an end to the cycle of violence."
©2001 San Francisco Chronicle