Thousands protest war at S.F. rally, march – East Bay Times

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SAN FRANCISCO — Anne Landman of Grand Junction, Colo., sat behind a row of portable toilets and watched the growing crowd of protesters at Saturday’s anti-war march with an appreciative eye.

“We don’t have marches like this in Colorado,” said Landman, who is living in the Bay Area temporarily for a fellowship at University of California, San Francisco.

“This is really something,” she said, her eye catching on a small brass band queuing up to march, then running over the rows of booths and their bounty of merchandise bearing slogans against the war, President Bush and his administration.

To Landman, the rowdy, colorful crowd was far more than just an afternoon diversion — it symbolized a chance to make a difference and force a change.

“In fact, I think this might be one of the only things that really does (make adifference),” Landman said, “when people come out and show how they really feel.”

Three years after troops entered Iraq, Landman and tens of thousands of other protesters in San Francisco and throughout the world took to the streets in what was billed as a global protest to call for an end to the war. More than 2,300 U.S. soldiers have died and more than 17,000 others have been wounded in the conflict. Worldwide protests drew 15,000 in London, 3,000 in Turkey, 1,000 in Sweden and hundreds in Denmark and Australia.

About 1,000 joined rallies in Times Square in New York, and several thousand lined Hollywood Boulevard for a march in Los Angeles. In Washington, 200 people demonstrated outside Vice President Dick Cheney’s residence, according to news accounts.

Protests also were held in Walnut Creek and Palo Alto. And earlier Saturday, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, spoke against the war at a town hall meeting she hosted at Grand Lake Theater in Oakland.

Organizers of the San Francisco march said 25,000 attended, but police estimated the crowd at about 6,000. The march took two hours to wend through downtown San Francisco, and the crowd stretched across several streets. Hundreds of police, many holding riot helmets, lined the route.

Gabrielle Kashani of Berkeley joined the protest with her 18-month-old son, Darius.

She was there to protest the ongoing war and urge a peaceful resolution to conflict, and also signal her growing concern about the possibility of a war with Iran.

Before the march started, she said the crowd seemed smaller than those at previous marches she attended, and hoped it didn’t signal a growing apathy over the war.

Before the war started, “maybe people felt like they could make a difference,” Kashani said, “but now we’re in, and it’s more complicated now.”

But Bill Hackwell with protest organizer International A.N.S.W.E.R., Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, said the crowd exceeded expectations.

“It shows people are so furious and fed up with Bush, they feel they’ve got to be marching,” Hackwell said.

Several dozen counterprotesters, some carrying signs reading “Freedom isn’t free” and “Defend freedom” and carrying American flags, lined up across the street from marchers, who gathered at the plaza in front of San Francisco City Hall.

Matthew Dennis of Hayward, a member of a group called Protest Warriors, said the Iraq invasion was a step toward peace to the Middle East, said. “We’re here to show there is a different (opinion) out here and express what we believe to be the truth,” Dennis said.

Veteran marcher Joan Rashti, 62, of Santa Rosa, who participated in at least three previous marches, said she was there to show her outrage at a war that has claimed thousands of lives, including innocent men and women in Iraq.

“We’ve been manipulated, we’ve been lied to, and we need to speak out,” Rashti said.

Wire services contributed to this report. Contact Michelle Maitre at mmaitre@angnewspapers.com.



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