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
I wrote several stories on the issue, which culminated in Norr being fired and Bronstein unilaterally banning Chron employees from peace protests. I even borrowed CodePink's guerilla tactics when Bronstein repeatedly refused to return my calls or address why he had singled out antiwar protesters for uniquely punitive treatment. I confronted him during a speech he gave at the Commonwealth Club (see "Lies and half-truths," 5/7/03). That was the tenor of the times: we were all tired of being lied to and we decided to push back.
Norr was particularly frustrated with his own paper's reporting of the war and started sending articles by the foreign press to his paper's news desk, trying to wake his colleagues up to the pro-war propaganda being passed off as journalism in this country.
He was also disappointed with the country and with the Chronicle — both the management and his fellow reporters, who did little to support him — but the experience caused him to return to his roots as a progressive activist.
"The war and losing the job and everything brought an abrupt end to my consumerist phase and dumped me back into the world of being an activist," said Norr, who serves on the KPFA 94.1 FM local station board and has made three recent trips to the Palestinian territories while working with the International Solidarity Movement.
Benjamin said Americans shouldn't expect the next president to end the war — not without lots of pressure from a renewed and vocal peace movement. "This is the time to set the stage for the post-Bush agenda," Benjamin said. "Don't put your hopes in Barack Obama in getting us out of Iraq. Put your hopes in the people."
A rally and nonviolent direct action at the Richmond refinery targeted Chevron on March 15 (Photo by Lane Hartwell)
The San Francisco Police Department, which spent more than $2 million on overtime costs responding to peace protests between March 15 and April 16, 2003, generally behaved with restraint and professionalism, but there were several exceptions.
The most costly and disturbing incident came when Officer Anthony Nelson began aggressively swinging his long riot baton at protesters, badly shattering the arm of peaceful protester Linda K. Vaccarezza, who suffered a permanent disability in her career as a court reporter.
Nelson's incident report falsely stated that Vaccarezza had threatened him with a sign attached to a solid pole, but video of the incident later clearly showed there was no pole and that she was retreating when he teed off on her (see "The home front," 05/19/04).
Vaccarezza received an $835,000 settlement from the city in November of 2004. On Oct. 5, 2005, two and a half years after the incident, SFPD fired Nelson for lying about what happened that day, and the City Attorney's Office has been successfully fighting Nelson's appeals in court ever since, putting in more than $100,000 in attorney time and costs into the Nelson and Vaccarezza cases.
The other significant ongoing litigation from the antiwar protests involved Mary Bull, who was arrested during an early protest for pouring fake blood in front of the entrance to Chevron's San Francisco office before being allegedly strip searched and left naked in her San Francisco Jail cell for 36 hours.
Ironically, Bull was among those who brought a successful class action lawsuit against Sacramento County after she and others protesting a logging plan were strip searched, setting a precedent and led most counties to reform their strip-search policies. She used her share of the $15 million judgment to buy an organic permaculture farm in Sebastopol.