Published on Monday, October 7, 2002 in the San Francisco Chronicle
Anti-War Rallies Across U.S.
8,000 Protesters in S.F. are Part of Resistance Gaining Momentum
by Elizabeth Fernandez
Anti-war fever awoke over the weekend, as about 8,000 protesters in San Francisco joined brethren across the country in a rising rumble against President Bush's drive to disarm Iraq.
"This is the beginning of a solid anti-war movement," said Osama Qasem, 32, president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who attended Sunday's demonstration at Union Square.
"Now, there is an urgency to strengthen our movement, to say no to war," Qasem said. "It's high time to realize that exercising your right to freedom of expression does not make you un-American."
Over the weekend, from the east meadow of New York's Central Park to the National Guard headquarters in Los Angeles, scores of thousands rallied against a possible war with Iraq. At the Texas state capitol, protesters shouted "No more blood for oil," while in Portland 5,000 people, some of them newly born pacifists, linked with veteran demonstrators to protest military intervention against Iraq.
Organized by a seven-month-old, New York-based organization called Not In Our Name, more than two dozen other rallies were held in cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Fresno and Minneapolis.
"Wouldn't miss this one," said Gnade. "I was so glad to finally have some place to come to vent our feelings. It's been frustrating reading how much support George Bush has for this war."
Polls generally indicate support for military action against Iraq, believed by the Bush administration to have long been acquiring weapons of mass destruction, with a majority of people polled favoring multilateral backing through the United Nations.
But in the Bay Area, with its heritage of political activism, many have begun expressing an uneasy foreboding.
Galvanized by Bush's push for military intervention, anti-war sentiment re- emerged Sunday into blazing sunshine and cacophony at Union Square.
"Bush wants to go to war -- he's going to find a way no matter what," said Aimara, 28, a receptionist at an Oakland law firm and spokesperson for Not In Our Name. "We need to find a way to show that people aren't just going to sit down. I don't like Saddam. I think he's horrible. He doesn't care about the Iraqi people, but Bush doesn't care either. What he cares about is controlling the region."
Not In Our Name's "pledge of resistance" was recited in assorted languages:
"We believe that as people living in the United States it is our responsibility to resist the injustices done by our government, in our names. .. . Another world is possible, and we pledge to make it real."
Some participants rode BART -- dubbed "the peace train" for the day -- into the city.
Fittingly for the city's cornerstone of commerce, water was sold at the rally for $1 a bottle, buttons ("I love my country, it's the government I hate") went for $3.
A warm-up protest was held at the foot of Powell Street by Global Exchange and the International Answer Coalition. Attended by several hundred protesters, their chants of "No blood for oil" could scarcely be heard amid the din of percussion instruments and Market Street denizens.
Watching bemusedly from the cable car queue was Chris Jacobsen, 19, a Coast Guard seaman apprentice visiting the city from Nebraska.
"There's a generation gap going on here. I see a lot of old people who probably haven't been protesting since Vietnam," said Jacobsen, who supports military action in Iraq. "San Francisco has been liberal for so long, you expect to see demonstrations like this here. In Omaha, this would never fly."
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle