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organizer reportback from jan 18th breakaway
Saturday during the nation-wide protests against war in Iraq, anti-war activists, anti-capitalists, and ordinary Americans broke away from the permitted march and marched through the streets of San Francisco. The 1000+ march snaked through the streets, leaving a colorful trail of anti-war art in its wake. Drawings ranged from multicolored chalk drawing to spray-painted stencil and graffiti art. The energy grew and march participants made bolder statements, smashing windows at a Starbucks coffee shop and at the INS building.
Organizers point out that their role was simply to move the march from place to place, so that "affinity groups" and individuals could express themselves as they saw fit. They say their march was meant to send a powerful message to both private and governmental institutions they see as implicated in the war effort. Moreover they felt it was important to make this message "publicly and collectively" to amplify voices that have been shut out by the establishment and are not being heard in society. Organizers expect that their communities will show uncompromising and increasing resistance to this unjust war.
Organizers said they had been asked to bring the march to three locations, which they did. They did not cite Starbucks as one of these locations, but smiled when they were told that its windows had been smashed.
The Chronicle, San Francisco's only major local newspaper, was the first to be covered in a graffiti mural consisting mostly of short messages such as "Lies" and "Weapon of Mass Distraction". Activists criticized the paper as a "mouthpiece of the Bush regime" and said it failed to present any dissenting analysis or critical viewpoint on the war. One participant said that the spray-painted messages she left behind are "more representative of the views of our progressive communities than Chronic Liar propaganda."
The protesters then descended on the Citicorp Center building, home to the British Consulate. "Has Britain become a colony of the United States?" asked one protester, "Tony Blair is an embarrassment to British people everywhere." Protesters also targeted Citicorp itself, citing its financial complicity in the war effort. Citicorp was also criticized for funding exploitative projects in third world countries, for its offenses against the environment, and for the way it fuels poverty and injustice throughout the world. Another protester phrased her message as a question to passers-by: "Who profits from war?"
Energy remained high as the crowd redecorated the imposing INS building with images of a world without oppression. This building had recently been the target of angry protests over the mandatory "registration" of many Arab and middle-Eastern men. Marchers chanted "no borders, no nations, fuck deportations" as protesters smashed the windows of the INS and redecorated its façade. One protester said he was "outraged at the way our friends and neighbors are being humiliated and dehumanized. No person should be hauled away to a secret detention, abused, and denied access to their family or lawyer."
After the march left the INS building, plainclothes policemen who had infiltrated it tackled, brutalized, and hauled off at least two activists. The police became more and more aggressive, and organizers worried as the march began to be hemmed in. They led the protest back to Market street and headed up the street, sometimes running as police attempted to drive motorcycles into the crowd. Organizers looked for a place to disperse peacefully and called the march to an end at the Powell street BART station. Many protesters then entered the BART, only to be chased down into the station by police officers in riot gear. What happened in the BART station is still unclear.
Organizers of the march expressed gratitude to all who participated and made the event a great success. They offered a "special shout out to the pink bloc," in an apparent reference to a radical queer contingent in the march. Organizers also dismissed the preliminary media reports of violence saying, " Our march did not confront a single individual human being with violence. The only people looking for a fight today were the police."
There is no public press contact for march organizers. ###