Streets of San Francisco

Hundreds of thousands of anti-war people took to the streets of the world last weekend to illustrate opposition to President George W. Bush and the U.S.-led war and occupation of Iraq.

Sacramento sent a contingent to the streets of San Francisco. On Saturday morning, 200 locals gathered at the Target parking lot on Broadway and Riverside Boulevard, loaded onto buses (two of them powered by eco-friendly biodiesel fuel) and took off west on Interstate 80. Within hours, the locals joined an upbeat protest parade that began in Dolores Park, swarmed down Market Street and finally converged at an enormous rally of about 40,000 people in the city’s Civic Center.

From my station on high ground, it was invigorating to behold the placard-waving, conga-drumming, anthem-singing paraders as they merged by the tens of thousands into the huge city square. The sight was reminiscent of the large, peaceful rallies that millions participated in globally before the Iraq war began.

The puppet people were out in force, with huge ones of Mohandas Gandhi and Dick Cheney and one depicting a huge turkey with Bush’s head on top. A fellow wearing a Bush mask and a flowing, white wedding skirt danced before a line of stern, riot-prepared cops. An all-peace marching band played enthusiastic oompah versions of the songs you always hear—like “We Shall Not Be Moved”—at demonstrations.

Golf carts and e-vehicles adorned with flapping rainbow flags weaved in and out of the crowd. From one such vehicle, a protester with a megaphone arranged for hundreds marching nearby to perform “die-ins” every few blocks. After a countdown from 10, all fell down on the street. After the cry “Rise up!” echoed, the dead reawakened and launched to their feet, cheering, “Rise up! Rise up!”

The event proved, for once and all, that the left has more fun with signage than the right does. There were signs saying, “Impeach the Dim Son,” “My Dog Ate the Weapons of Mass Destruction,” “Re-defeat Bush” and “Hemp is an Herb, Bush is a Dope.” One popularly worn T-shirt took a circumspect view of the upcoming GOP presidential ticket—“Bush/Satan: 2004.”

A few splinter groups led by black-clad anarchists reeled out from the Civic Center and wandered through the Tenderloin. Some folks were clubbed by police; 81 people were arrested. A 21-year-old from Davis was inadvertently busted for trying to videotape arrests.

On hand to augment the event’s comeliness quotient were hundreds of smartly dressed women in business attire—“independent beauty consultants” wearing nametags and blazers in pink and red. Unaware that they shared a favorite shade with the creative radicals from “Code Pink,” the well-coifed women were attending the national Mary Kay Cosmetics convention at the nearby auditorium.

At liberty to dance, to demonstrate, to wear the color pink for whatever reason—Saturday reminded people that free speech remains the bomb.