Anti-war demonstrators are turning away from the widespread protests
that disrupted San Francisco last week and are instead using smaller actions
focusing on the government and businesses that contribute to the U.S. war
effort, activists said Monday.
The shift in tactics came after protests Thursday closed much of downtown
to traffic and smaller demonstrations Friday led to several hundred arrests.
An anti-war protestor wearing a mask looking like former President George Bush gives the thumbs up as he demonstrates across the street from the Transamerica Building in downtown San Francisco against the war in Iraq , March 24, 2003. Demonstrators were specifically targeting the Carlyle Group, one of the nation's biggest defense contractors, who have offices in the building. The protesters said former President Bush is an investor and advisor with Carlyle. REUTERS/Lou Dematteis
City officials pleaded with protesters to scale back their efforts, saying
that dealing with them was costing the city $900,000 a day and inconveniencing
thousands of people -- many of whom agreed with their anti-war stance.
On Monday, a few hundred protesters organized by Direct Action to Stop the
War chose two sites in San Francisco to test the new strategy -- the Federal
Building and the Carlyle Group, a politically connected investment firm with
offices in the Transamerica Pyramid.
In a separate action at San Francisco State University, several hundred
students held a peace rally that ended with a sit-in at the school's
"People are moving on from tying up intersections and preventing ordinary
San Franciscans from getting to work," said Andrea Buffa, national spokeswoman
for United for Peace and Justice, one of the anti-war movement's largest
"We sent a powerful message last Thursday that on the day after the war
started there would be no business as usual," Buffa said. "Now, we're going to
show how corporations are profiting from the war."
OBEYING RULES FOR PEDESTRIANS
Monday's protesters appeared to be careful about clashing with police,
urging each other to stay on the sidewalk and cross intersections with the
Downtown, the action started around 7 a.m. at Justin Herman Plaza, where a
couple of hundred people gathered before walking up Market Street in a mock
funeral procession to mourn people killed in the first days of the war -- U.S.
soldiers and Iraqis alike.
Police arrest an anti-war demonstrator in business attire outside the Transamerica building in San Francisco, Monday, March 24, 2003. Activists aimed their morning protest at the Carlyle Group, a global investment firm, with offices in the building, that they say is one of the nation's biggest defense contractors. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
"We're mourning the children who died in the first Persian Gulf War and
those who have died since then because of the sanctions," the Rev. Louie
Vitale of St. Boniface Church in San Francisco said as he paused at a
crosswalk to wait for the motorcycle police officers escorting them.
"We also grieve those soldiers who have died and those who will die," he
said. "War is just hell."
One group of protesters marched to the Federal Building, near the Civic
Center, and blocked the entrance on Turk Street.
Gopal Dayaneni, 33, refused to leave the back door of the building, which
was protected by steel barricades, when police gave the order to disperse
around 10 a.m.
"I have a soul," Dayaneni said, explaining his decision to stay behind as
police in riot gear surrounded him and other protesters.
Around noon, about 75 protesters were escorted to two white buses, searched
and eventually whisked off to Pier 27, where plans were to cite most of them
and release them.
CALLING ATTENTION TO INVESTORS
While the demonstration at the Federal Building was going on, other
protesters were at the Transamerica Pyramid to focus on the Carlyle Group,
whose investor roster ranges from former President George H.W. Bush to the
Saudi family of Osama bin Laden.
Some protesters locked arms, and police moved in and loaded them into
As a police officer stands guard on a police line used to cordon-off anti-war protesters, a members of the anti-war group 'Yoga for Peace' prays before her arrest for blocking the entrance to the Transamerica Building in downtown San Francisco as a protest against the war on Iraq, March 24, 2003. Demonstrators were specifically targeting the Carlyle Group, one of the nation's biggest defense contractors, who have offices in the building. REUTERS/Lou Dematteis
The rest of the crowd moved to Washington and Montgomery streets, where an
eclectic mix of yoga practitioners, chanting protesters, riot police and
confused passers-by mingled.
"Compared to some of the other arrestees over the past week, this was kind
of nice," said Police Department spokesman Bob Mammone.
"They're not yelling epithets at us," he said. "It's a real peaceful,
serene scene here, especially with the chanting. And the yoga was nice to
watch, but unfortunately, they're still getting arrested."
About 125 protesters regrouped at Powell and Market streets at 5 p.m.
Monday and wandered down to the Embarcadero and back up toward the Castro.
At about the same time, a group of about 100 students who had been staging
a sit-in on the first floor of S.F. State's administration building dispersed
on their own, said school spokeswoman Ligeia Polidora.
That group, part of a larger crowd that had come from an 11 a.m. rally,
presented five demands: that administrators pass a resolution condemning the
war; that the FBI and police not interfere with either the student peace
movement or with international students; that the administration lift
sanctions on a Palestinian student group; that the administration provide
money for the anti-war movement; and that there be no increase in tuition or
fees this year.
Polidora said administrators have not responded to the students' demands
but the faculty senate already has passed a resolution against the war.
None of the students was arrested.
San Francisco Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Eileen Hirst said police had
made about 130 protest-related arrests throughout the day, bringing the total
since Thursday to almost 2,300.
POLICE WITHSTAND THE STRESS
The hundreds of police officers who have been keeping protesters in check
for five days now are holding up well -- despite taunts, name-calling and
marathon shifts, said Assistant Police Chief Alex Fagan Sr., who watched the
crowd assemble at Justin Herman Plaza.
Fagan said he believed 99 percent of the protesters had been peaceful.
"It's that 1 percent that's unlawful that requires 75 percent more
resources," he said.
Deputy Chief Rick Bruce, who is in charge of the special operations and
security bureau for the San Francisco police, said that, overall, the protests
had gone well Monday.
"There were no fights, no struggles, and nobody resisted arrest," Bruce
said. "Yoga for Peace has been out here every day. They are very nice, and
they are extremely limber.
"The political message is irrelevant to us," he said. "If a bunch of pro-
war demonstrators decided to take over the streets and disrupt the operations
of the city, we would do the same thing. It's an issue of keeping the city
open and running."
Chronicle staff writers Kathleen Sullivan and Suzanne Herel contributed to this report.
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle