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3-19-2008 The Iraq escalation's fifth anniversary

by Sybil
On the fifth anniversary of the war or escalation of the U.S. intervention in Iraq (as the U.S. has maintained a presence since the first Gulf war), several thousand people participated in a variety of demonstrations under the framework organized by Direct Action to Stop the War. These included a variety of actions at sites in the Financial District and other areas of the city owned by or symbolic of war profiteers, military contractors, abetting politicians, and nuclear proliferators.
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After outlining the events of the day, I will append photos which are not overrepresented among other photosets on indybay.org and in other major media. For instance, the Act Against Torture die-in had spectacular visual appeal and made the top cover photo of the CNN website due to the orange jumpsuits set off against the downtown skyscrapers. Perhaps this had something to do with the CNN photographer and reporter who were encircled by police as they used a technique several times today of massing to the side, then rapidly spreading out in lines and blocking people from entering and leaving the sidewalk. Also, there are several great photos of the major Chevron lockdown, and the vigil by Raging Grannies at the Army Recruitment Center.

I started my day stopping by the UC Regents meeting. The Regents were holding a public meeting which covered their management of the Department of Energy labs at Livermore and Los Alamos where nuclear research is carried out - a very relevant topic for today's organized protests. At 7:50, I probably got there 10 minutes late. A dozen demonstrators stood outside, and described a couple students who had locked themselves to the door and had already been arrested. More were getting their bags checked and heading to the public comment period, and later I heard that 10 were arrested. Please report what happened somewhere on indybay. For the time being, the Chronicle article touches on what happened

Downtown, a very large group at Sansome and Market was heading off on a long winding march through downtown. There were a lot of creative ideas for public interaction, music, and costumes, and the concept of spending several hours making our way through the neighborhood had great impact and was fun and emotionally satisfying. There was no stressful interaction, and little real obstruction of nontargeted companies, but everyone downtown knew of what was happening and watched from windows. We stopped at several sites including the Chevron blockade which had started earlier, and the British and Israeli consulates. While many workers in the area have nothing to do with Iraq, the area is so target rich that we kept walking by lower-level companies such as URS, a reconstruction profiteer, because we had to move on to other things. Police were very facilitative at this point, and this area of the city doesn't have much traffic except for cabs.
By 10am, this group emerged onto Market St. At 3rd and Market, marching stopped and a couple dozen brave people started a die-in at the intersection. Most others moved around the sidewalks. CNET journalist Josh Wolf was the perhaps the first arrest of the day, as he carried a large video camera. Eventually, about two dozen were arrested for their symbolic refusal to move and to allow business as usual on this day. At one point, there was a commotion when several police grabbed a man, possibly because they were unhappy with a utility tool attached to his belt.

11am was near, and most people remaining joined a group listening to poetry and other readings and statements at Montgomery and Market, adjacent to Senator Diane Feinstein's office at 1 Post St. At noon, a large number of people who had planned to engage in civil disobedience moved into the street. During the initial period, many more demonstrators not intending to do this second die-in, and downtown workers, milled around in the streets with them. A dispersal order was given, and most of them moved onto the sidewalks. Legal observers in green hats and people taking photographs hung out on the edges. As the police came out in lines at a rapid jogging pace to line the sidewalks, a few laggers had to quickly jump onto the sidewalk, and there was some confusion as some encircled people panicked and tried to run out. In most cases, the officer closest to them let these non-CD people go, however, at least 5 journalists including CNN, and a legal observer were kept inside.

These philosophical arrestees really created the greatest impact of the day, and deserve all our commendation. After taking some time to set up arrest processing lines and buses, it took a full 2.5 hours to clear the intersection at the core of the Financial district. Onlookers cheered the diverse arrestees as they were lead by from the center circle. The majority were women, and while code pink was present, most didn't wear clothing affiliated with any group. After a little while, the Act Against Torture group filed into the intersection in a line, representing a second wave of conscientious civil disobedience participants. Wearing orange jumpsuits, chains and hoods reminiscent of Abu Ghraib prison or our Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, they waited for the first group of perhaps >100 to be bussed away. The intersection was a pleasant spectacle, and everyone on the sidewalk held conversations with folks coming out of BART and nearby buildings to watch.

Incidentally, at the stage where the police surrounded the civil disobedience demonstrators, an arrest suddenly took place on the SE corner of Montgomery and Market, at least 30 feet from where a few people quickly rushed to step across the police lines and onto the sidewalk. A man being called to as Mitch was roughly arrested by several police and received bloody bumps on his head, and many witnessed that he had been standing on the sidewalk as officers came and grabbed him by the arm and pulled him onto the street where the dispersal order had been announced. He had been seen by many and this and recent protests calmly taking pictures with a nice camera, and never acting either hyperactive or aggressively, and this made me wonder if some sort of mistaken identity had occurred, where police could have seen someone with similar appearance do minor vandalism earlier.
Twenty minutes later into this scene of a large crowd watching the die-in unfold and socializing and listening to music from the brass band, several noticed two officers pointing at people standing on the sidewalk. A minute later two officers darted onto the sidewalk and grabbed a man who definitely had not been doing anything illegal in front of any witnesses there. Seconds later, a second man wearing all black was also being arrested. Unlike an earlier arrest, officers didn't seem interested in searching their pockets or bag, so nobody understood what the arrest was for. The NLG posted a request to refrain from posting photos of this type of event, so we might wait until later to post images that show the officers and location etc.

After the last person was led away, a small group I was with went by the Bechtel offices inside the building on Beale shared with Blue Shield. Some of Bechtel's work has been transferred outside of San Francisco. Staff locked the doors as some approached, so many went to the Army Recruitment center on Davis street, where a vigil was occurring. Someone explained how half an hour earlier, one individual suddenly grabbed a newsbox and threw it at a police car producing a dent, and argued with an officer, but was not detained before leaving the area (photos seen in other indybay articles). The police officers here were very calm and issued no orders.
At 5pm, ANSWER had organized a march from Civil center to the Mission. It proceeded along the typical trajectory. As the people attending that started to amass by city hall, there was a long 15 minute delay before they were allowed to start walking, and it wasn't clear why this happened.
§
by Sybil
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While there are few military weapons factories or military bases suitable for symbolic demonstration in downtown San Francisco, it is still a target rich environment, with many institutions or politicians financing or leading the Iraq war.
§Animans for the ethical treatment of humans
by Sybil
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§Bikes
by Sybil
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A group of cyclists circled downtown, and were trailed by officers much of the time.
§Josh Wolf
by Sybil
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CNET media and technology writer Josh Wolf was the first arrest I saw. It is very unlikely that he was participating in the die in because he carried a large camera. Case law has established that any citizen may observe police activity, with officers to define a safe distance at the scene, while journalists have a first amendment right to cross these police lines in order to cover a story. A gray area arises because police may still define a different zone which journalists may not enter so they don't interfere with operations. Right after this, a commander yelled at a cameraman possibly from KTVU that he would be arrested if he stepped off the sidewalk again, and the anchor who was with him discussed Wolf's situation, asking how his case had turned out.

For reference, TV anchor Wayne Freedman was arrested for crossing police lines to report on a fire, and he has a fairly good case for saying that he had a first amendment right to reasonably cover the story.
§Unhappy birthday
by Sybil
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United for Peace and Justice had set up an unhappy birthday cake with free breakfast, coffee, and informational pamphlets for downtown workers along Market street.
§Snake march downtown
by Sybil
Copy the code below to embed this movie into a web page:
§Start of die-in on Montgomery and Market
by Sybil
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§Civil disobedience
by Sybil
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§Encirclement of group
by Sybil
Copy the code below to embed this movie into a web page:
Due to the way the police quickly surrounded these die-in groups, some people who didn't intend to voluntarily be arrested were caught off guard in each case, because they had been lagging in the intersection. This is at Montgomery and Market. Other film clips could be added later as comments
§More CD
by Sybil
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§Long line of arrests
by Sybil
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§Arrested women
by Sybil
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§Montgomery and Market
by Sybil
Copy the code below to embed this movie into a web page:
This sets the scene before police decided to take the intersection back. A very large crowd was present, and everyone was milling among the civil disobedience protesters and enjoying the music
§Act Against Torture waiting
by Sybil
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§3rd market die-in
by Sybil
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Out of chronological order, this is the first die-in at third and Market streets
§3rd and Market
by Sybil
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§Gorilla
by Sybil
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§Answer March
by Sybil
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§Ron Paul supporter at ANSWER
by Sybil
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Sybil
Thu, Mar 20, 2008 8:08AM
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