January 29, 2003

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As of press time, local police still don't know just how many peace demonstrators converged on San Francisco Jan. 18. Their estimates range from 55,000 to as many as 150,000, while the International ANSWER coalition, which organized the protest, put the figure at no fewer than 200,000 - and says it took four hours for all of the marchers to walk the 1.7 miles from Justin Herman Plaza to Civic Center. ANSWER also reported that another half million marched on Washington, D.C., last Saturday. Whatever the actual numbers, it's probably safe to say that at no other time in the United States' history have so many people demonstrated for peace before military action has begun. Simultaneous marches took place around the country and the world. In San Francisco, demonstrators represented a wider than average cross section of the American public, with protesters arriving from as far away as Canada, Utah, and Idaho, and the usual suspects were joined by thousands of middle-aged, middle-class suburbanites. Taken together, protesters nationwide far outnumbered the 100,000 troops the United States has amassed in the Middle East in preparation for an attack on Iraq. And there was no shortage of creative ways they chose to make their point. Among the Bay Guardian's favorite sightings: a mock Homeland Security checkpoint replete with performers wearing "immigrant" signs, bound and gagged; signs reading "Somewhere in Texas, a village has lost its idiot," "Dear Florida, thanks for the warLove, San Francisco," "Niners fans say sack Bush," "George! It's the coke, honey It makes you mean," and "Thank you, Mr. Bush, everyone could use some reverse psychology"; pink-clad Queers Against Capitalism Against the War; and the comic reaction by peace marchers to a small group of about 20 pro-Bush demonstrators on the steps of City Hall, whom they observed with bemusement, as if viewing an exhibit at the zoo. Now, one critical question remains: Will President Bush and his warmongers take heed of the overwhelming groundswell of public opposition to war? (Camille T. Taiara)

E-mail Camille T. Taiara at camille@sfbg.com.