By John Williams
SAN FRANCISCO—Politicians, movie stars, students and many more around the nation spoke their minds on Saturday in response to the president’s plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.
In San Francisco, between 10,000 and 15,000 people gathered in protest, including a number from Santa Cruz.
The crowd carried signs and
banners, played drums, and flashed the peace sign as they marched from the corner of Market and Powell to Pier 31 to hear speakers address various topics including the troop surge, the war in Iraq, Israel and Palestine, racism against Arabs, Katrina reconstruction, and San Francisco labor struggles.
The march was organized principally by United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), a coalition of more than 50 independent organizations against the war.
“We call on Congress to take the actions within its legal power, to make history and steer this country toward sanity, rationality and stability to end the war now,” said Leslie Cagan, UFPJ national coordinator.
The call to end the war seemed to resonate with the many marchers Saturday, many of whom were UC Santa Cruz students who made the drive up to San Francisco to show their support.
“We’re here to tell the congress that they can’t just ignore the voice of the people, they need to take action to end the war now,” said Fred Mosqueda, a fifth-year molecular biology major at UCSC.
In typical San Francisco fashion, the crowd was more varied than the topics covered in speeches, spanning a wide range of protestors, from 10 year-old children to the elderly and from the radical to the moderate. David Hennick, a Vietnam War Veteran who lives in the Bay Area, had a more distanced view.
“It took the American people a long time to take action on Vietnam, too,” Hennick said. “I think that the situation now looks a lot like the turning point of 40 years ago. I think we may be seeing massive changes in the near future.”
Though the UCSC students at the protest seemed to agree in their opposition to the troop surge, Kelley Hayes, president of the UCSC College Republicans, defended the move.
“If we don’t do everything we can to support the troops there, that would be like knocking over a sand castle and not building it back up,” said Hayes, who did not attend the protest.
Savannah O’Neill, a first-year art major at UCSC, explained that while she doesn’t usually attend protests, she decided to drive to San Francicsco “just to check out a big protest.”
Others, such as Adam Hauthschild, a first-year politics major at UCSC, were more passionate about the event.
“The American people voted against the war in November, and Bush responded by adding more troops,” Hauthschild said. “That’s unacceptable.”
Both newcomers and those with a more militant stance attended the protest.
“The imperial Bush administration has showed itself to be completely against the rule of the people,” said Jack Ryan, a student at Lowell High School in San Francisco. “These marches are the beginning of their downfall.”
The overwhelming anti-war sentiment has carried on to UCSC alumni, including San Francisco resident Eric Fromme. “Why can’t we pull the troops immediately?” he said. “You don’t rebuild countries with guns.”