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4 Years Since Invasion: Anniversary Inspires Marches
Published on Monday, March 19, 2007 by the San Francisco Chronicle
4 Years Since Invasion: Anniversary Inspires Marches
by Glen Martin / Meredith May
 
Calling for an immediate end to the American presence in Iraq, about 3,000 boisterous protesters marched from the Embarcadero through downtown San Francisco to Civic Center on Sunday afternoon.


Harold Unsicker, a World War II veteran, takes a break from marching in a protest against the Iraq war in San Francisco, California, March 18, 2007. REUTERS/Kimberly White
What the march may have lacked in numbers, it made up for in intensity.

"Don't let Bush and Cheney break your spirit,'' the Rev. Amos Brown, leader of the local chapter of the NAACP and a former San Francisco supervisor, told the crowd at Civic Center Plaza.

Keith Goodman of Berkeley, who pushed his 4-year-old daughter in a stroller the length of the march, warned that the full story of Iraq is not being told.

"No one seems to be talking about the Iraqis who are dying," he said. "Imagine if we shut down the electricity and closed all the hospitals in this country, what would the death toll be here?''

Timed to mark today's fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion, the march began shortly before 1 p.m. at Justin Herman Plaza near the Embarcadero and proceeded up Market Street. By 3:30 p.m., the speeches were done and the banners furled, and the crowd had begun to melt away.

Protesters also hit the streets Sunday in communities around the nation, including major cities like New York and Portland, Ore., and smaller towns like Boise, Idaho, and Bangor, Maine.

Among the San Francisco demonstrators were former members of the military who had served in Iraq.

"I felt comfortable with the idea of protecting America based on the assumption that Saddam (Hussein) had weapons of mass destruction,'' said 24-year-old Sean O'Neill of Fremont, a former Marine sergeant who served two tours in Iraq. "I started having real problems with the war when those assumptions proved false.''

There's growing discontent in the military over the war in Iraq, O'Neill said, even among soldiers who went to the Middle East for idealistic reasons.

"Things change for them when they get over, when they see the way things are going on the ground,'' O'Neill said.

Also participating in the March were members of Code Pink, a group that on March 11 began a round-the-clock vigil outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Pacific Heights home. The group set up "Camp Pelosi" on the steps of her Broadway Street home and plans to stay until Congress votes on the supplemental appropriation bill for the war later this week.

"We're not against Nancy Pelosi. We're not protesting Nancy Pelosi. We want her to provide strong leadership to end the war now,'' said Cynthia Papermaster, a San Francisco resident and member of Code Pink. "We want her to cut funding and end the war now, not a year from now."

Pelosi has said she is sympathetic to their cause.

Doubt about the conduct of the war, which fueled November's Democratic takeover of Congress, continues to grow. A CNN poll of 1,027 adults released Sunday showed that only 35 percent of Americans are confident about the war in Iraq, down from 83 percent when the war began. Thirty percent of those surveyed were proud of the war, down from 65 percent in 2003.

Sunday's San Francisco march was in keeping with the city's reputation. The air reeked of burning white sage and patchouli and, occasionally, marijuana. Two men in tight shorts and arm ruffles danced on stilts, accompanied by musicians playing accordions, clarinets, bongos and finger cymbals. At Civic Center, booths hawked literature, T-shirts and bumper stickers promoting the virtues of movements and philosophies that would be considered irregular or even scandalous in more conservative quarters.

While Iraq was the day's main focus, the marchers had plenty of other concerns. More than a half-dozen speakers fired up the protesters before the march, calling on the United States to abandon its military bases throughout the world, most especially in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines.

People carried signs saying "Impeach," "No Blood for Oil" and even "Obama '08.''

About 30 American Indians at the head of the march called for an end to more than 500 years of "illegal occupation'' of North America by people of European descent.

"Native Americans are leading this protest because we've always been marginalized in this country,'' said Morning Star Gali of California's Pit River tribe. "In the last couple of years, we've been speaking out more and more against the occupation in Iraq.''

San Francisco police no longer estimate crowd sizes, although department spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens said protest organizers told police to expect 3,000 to 5,000 marchers. The Chronicle's estimate of 3,000 is based on a count of the crowd as it moved off Market Street onto McAllister Street. A speaker praised the crowd at Civic Center for its size, telling the crowd it was 3,000-strong.

There were no reported problems with the march, Gittens said.

The protest didn't attract anywhere near the crowds that showed up for similar events in 2002 and 2003 that blocked access to much of downtown San Francisco.

"There are demonstrations all over the Bay Area today," said Berkeley resident Bill Booth, 82. "That may have diluted the turnout in San Francisco a little."

War demonstrations today --

  • San Ramon: Several groups are participating in a rally to protest Chevron's role in the Iraq war, 7-11 a.m. at the oil company's headquarters, 6001 Bollinger Canyon Road.
  • San Francisco: A civil disobedience die-in and vigil against war funding by the 1st Lt. Watada Support Group, noon, office of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Market and Montgomery streets.
  • San Francisco: A rally in front of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, noon, Federal Building, 450 Golden Gate Ave.
  • San Francisco: Several vigils marking the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war are planned by MoveOn: Market Street BART stations, 11:45 a.m.; corner of Lake Street and Park Presidio, 5 p.m.; Justin Herman Plaza, 6:45 p.m.; top of Bernal Hill, 7:15 p.m.
  • Alameda: Vigil in front of City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara, 7-8 p.m. -- Berkeley: West Berkeley Candles for Peace candlelight vigil at the intersection of University and San Pablo avenues, 6 p.m.
  • Oakland: Silent vigil at the Pergola on Lake Merritt, Embarcadero between Grand and Lakeshore avenues, 6 p.m. -- Petaluma: Candlelight vigil, Helen Putnam Plaza, 6 p.m.
  • Sonoma: Candlelight vigil to support the troops, Sonoma City Hall Plaza, 1 The Plaza, 6 p.m.

Chronicle political writer John Wildermuth contributed to this report.

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