Locals join thousands in peace rallies
More than 100,000 anti-war demonstrators hit the streets of San Francisco Sunday to join voices heard around the world this weekend protesting a possible U.S. invasion of Iraq.
“The hope (for peace) is definitely still there,” said Deborah Cohen of the Peace Center of Nevada County, who attended Sunday’s march.
At the main demonstration, celebrity speakers tied the San Francisco event to a worldwide series of demonstrations Saturday across the United States and overseas.
On Saturday, an estimated 5,000 people converged on the state Capitol in Sacramento. “No one really wants war,” said musician Paul Kamm, one of several Nevada County artists who performed at the peace rally.
Johnna Garrido of Nevada City came with her father and her two sisters. The 23-year-old yoga student, who attended a January peace march in San Francisco, said people brought blankets. “It had more of a picnic vibe,” she said. “It was great.”
Kamm, who performed a Woody Guthrie song with partner Eleanore MacDonald, said the peace movement is growing because more people realize they do not have to remain silent.
There were “tons” of families, grandparents and little children in Sacramento, MacDonald said. “It was really amazing.”
Darlene Loyd, president of Sierra Students for Change, a Sierra College peace group, said the speakers showed solidarity among workers, businesses, attorneys and doctors.
Cohen, who also attended Saturday’s event in Sacramento, said she felt goosebumps when fiddler Alasdair Fraser, another musician based in Nevada County, played as people walked around the Capitol.
San Francisco’s speakers included U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), the only member of the House to vote against the war. “She’s my hero,” Cohen said.
On Sunday, a steady stream of chanting, sign-waving protesters filled 12 large city blocks stretching from the waterfront to San Francisco’s ornate, historic City Hall. Police estimated the crowd at 150,000 people. Other estimates put the number at 250,000.
”Finally it seems there is a worldwide movement saying this is obviously a catastrophic path we’re on,” said Deborah Hoffmann, 55, of Oakland. ”And now everybody is out in the streets.”
After the demonstration, a splinter group of a few hundred people, some of them wearing bandanas across their faces, marched to the city’s posh Union Square shopping area, where they squared off with police officers.
Some of the demonstrators pelted police with rocks, food and other objects, although reasons for the trouble were not clear. Police in riot gear closed the entrances to some stores to prevent looting, but there were no immediate reports of arrests.
”We know that we have not been shown enough evidence for a preemptive strike,” said singer Bonnie Raitt. ”There are a million people around the globe who have shown they feel the same way.”
Hoffman, part of a group of Arab and Israeli women who attended the demonstration together, held a sign reading, ”Jewish Women For Peace.”
”It is so clearly really on the edge of madness what Bush is doing so you have to be out on the streets,” she said.
Korean war veteran Don Prell, 73, of San Francisco, decried the looming military conflict as a ploy for big business.
”I think it’s stupid. I’ve already gone through (war) and I could see that it was a war for the rich people then, and this is one now,” Prell said. ”It’s the same thing and it’s ridiculous.”
The United States and Britain continue to accuse Iraq of concealing weapons of mass destruction prohibited under U.N. resolutions adopted at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. They say they will disarm Iraq by force if necessary.
Still, many at San Francisco’s mass rally said the U.S. hasn’t proved its case.
Kerana Todorov and Associated Press
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