Sunday, September 25, 2005

The People, United

Along with many thousands of others in Washington DC, Seattle, Los Angeles and elsewhere, I spent a good portion of Saturday marching with a huge outpouring of people who seem to have a renewed sense of purpose about bringing American troops home from Iraq. Crowd estimates ranged from 20,000 to 50,000. Not being an expert in nose-counting, I hesitate to say how close either of those figures is to being accurate, but I can say without qustion that this particular march was the biggest I've seen since before the war started in 2003.

Maybe it's Cindy Sheehan. Maybe it's the escalation of violence in Iraq, the nearly 2000 dead Americans since the start of combat operations, the absence of anything resembling an exit strategy there. Maybe it's the frustration people are feeling after seeing the administration go stumbling and clueless in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and the realization that the folks who are supposed to be in charge are largely clueless, incompetent ideological fuckwads. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that millions of people in this country are now against the war, don't approve of the way Preznit AWOL is conducting it and want the troops to come home as soon as possible.

The march started at Dolores Park, wound its way up along Dolores and Church Streets to Market, then up Van Ness and west on Turk to Jefferson Square. Because I had foolishly forgotten my camera when I started at Dolores Park, I was glad that the parade route ran close enough to my apartment that I could walk there and retrieve it while the majority of the people marching were still on the move. These are just some of the pictures I took once I got back, though I never did get an angle to show the sheer size of the group participating. You can see the "official" SF Chronicle images here (and there are some very good shots there, better than any of mine), or you can see more of my shots at this site.

Some of the signs were quite clever, ranging from slogans such as "Wake Up and Smell the Fascism" and "Make Levees, Not War" to "Moron with a War On" and, in a nod to local politics and the unnecessary special election about to happen here in California this November (thanks to our idiot acting governor), "Don't Let Arnold Proposition You!" A number of them chided Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats for their continued support of the war, which I thought was both appropriate and something that politicians who are ostensibly on our side of the fence ought to be paying careful attention to right now and in the days to come.

There was a very small contingent of 101st Fighting Keyboarders there, about a half dozen young, white, belligerent twenty-somethings waving flags and signs and calling us all traitors and worse. Of course none of them had an answer to the question of why, if they are so supportive of the Bush agenda in general and the war in Iraq in particular, they aren't over there themselves, but that's to be expected. Hypocrisy runs rampant in that crowd, and, just like their heroes Chicken George and Other Priorities Dick, they all seem to find it much easier to swagger and rattle their sabers when it's other peoples' lives that are on the line. "Bring 'em on," indeed. Just as long as others are there to do the fighting, that is.

Unlike these chickenhawk hypocrites, though, there was at least one Republican with a sense of intelligence and moral values marching with us. This fellow, more than anyone else there, represented to me the sea change this country has undergone over the past year when it comes to support for the war. It's folks like this man and so many others -- soccer moms, blue collar workers, business people -- mainstream Americans, in other words -- that the Bush maladministration needs to worry about losing. He never had people like me on his side; but he certainly had the support of a lot of people like this guy over the past five years. That's changing, and changing quickly.

After the rally continued for a while at Jefferson Square, and the speeches began to get more and more strident (I generally take off when it gets to the point of speakers exhorting the crowd to solidarize with the Eritrean workers, or something equivalent), I headed over to Civic Center to catch the end of the Loveparade. It seemed a lot of other marchers had the same idea, as the ranks of the techno-dancers swelled considerably as the day went on and the protest wound down. The Loveparade had come down Market Street from the Embarcadero (the opposite end of the street from where we had marched) and then set up their floats of DJs spinning loud, pounding, bass-heavy dance music in a big circle around the Civic Center lawn in what was essentially a gigantic daytime rave. Half the people looked like they had just come there straight from Burning Man. It actually seemed like a fitting end to a perfectly San Francisco day.
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