San Francisco was the epicenter of the failed movement to prevent the Iraq War -- but the movement that emerged here may still change the country
"The officer who let me go said that if he saw me again out there, he would call Child Protective Services on me," Daphne said. But two days later, still brimming with outrage at her country's actions, she ditched a downtown medical conference to rejoin the street protests, this time solo.
The couple say they've lost friendships over the war and have become more engaged with politics, coming to believe that Bush and the neocons are malevolent figures who knew how badly the war would go and did it anyway to establish a large, permanent military base in Iraq.
"Since that day, we've been far more active," Ross said. "We realized you can't just trust the system. You have to push."
But that determination was mixed with feelings of disempowerment and depression. They attended some of the protests that following year, but the couple — like most people — just stopped going at some point because they seemed so futile.
"There was a horrible sense of resignation and a genuine depression that followed," Ross told me.
The nadir was when Bush was reelected and they considered leaving the country. But then, Ross said, "we decided we're not just going to run away and we're not going to accept this." Looking back, even with the scare over Emet, they express no regrets.
"It was the right thing to do because it was the wrong war to have. I'd do it again and again and again if I had to," Ross said
They're guardedly hopeful that Barack Obama could begin to turn things around if he's elected. "I think the right president can at least start to dismantle this," Daphne said. "I think thousands of people marching in the streets is something he would listen to."
A die-in on the streets of San Francisco in March 2007 marked the fourth anniversary of the invasion (Photo by Charles Russo)
WITNESS TO HISTORY
Covering the peace movement in those early days was a heady experience, like reporting on a revolutionary uprising or working in a foreign country where the people are organized and active enough to be able to shut down society and brave enough to risk bodily injury for their beliefs.
I was at the founding meeting of CodePink — which became the most effective group at personally confronting the warmongers and keeping the war in the public eye — one evening at Muddy Waters in the Mission District shortly after the war started.
Looking back, Benjamin rattled off a long list of the alliances the group built — with labor, churches, businesses, and a wide array of social movements — and creative actions intended to build and demonstrate popular support for ending the war.
"We've done so many things and what did we get? We got a surge," she said. "It shows the crisis in our democracy, the crisis of the two-party system, the crisis of a dysfunctional opposition party."
Yet she said the peace movement has been remarkably successful in convincing the public that the war was a mistake and that it's time for the troops to come home, even if the Democrats have been slow to respond to that shift.
"The progress we've made is turning around public opinion and that's going to play a big role in the upcoming elections," she said. For Norr, the role of the news media is a particular sore spot. He was a technology reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle who called in sick on the first full day of war and was arrested on Market Street with his wife and daughter, resulting in suspension by editor Phil Bronstein for his actions.
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