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Pictures at an Exhibitionist Protest

It’s been said that the first casualty of war is truth. But did you know that the first casualty of antiwar protests is traffic? Activities during the initial demonstrations against U.S. military action in Iraq that took place in San Francisco on March 20 drove this point home:

At 7:15 a.m., six young men wearing orange vests and hard hats swiped from a construction crew furtively dashed onto the Eighth Street offramp from Highway 101. They plunked down 13 orange cones, three men-at-work signs and lit five flares. The whole operation took 90 seconds, then they ran off on Eighth Street, dialing their cell phones.

“It’s done. We’ve screwed them good,” one of them said into his phone. Commuters pouring in off the freeway screeched to a halt in a long line, honking horns angrily as they wove past the cones. (San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 21, 2003)

The purpose of the antiwar demonstration, as described in the literature of Direct Action to Stop the War, one of the primary organizers of the day’s activities, was to use “nonviolent direct action” (a fancy way of saying civil disobedience) to “shut down” the Financial District of San Francisco and prevent “business as usual.” This would, theoretically, “create an open, welcoming and inspiring space that gives voice to the anti-war movement,” “give others [i.e., non-protestors] a chance to contemplate how war affects the children of Iraq,” and ultimately “send a message to Bush and the international community.”

This was to be accomplished by staging “direct action” at the corporate offices of Citicorp and the Carlyle Group, and the Pacific Stock Exchange, all of which, says Direct Action, “stand to reap outrageous financial profit from the devastation of Iraq and the Iraqi people.” Also targeted were the Federal Building, the Federal Reserve, Civic Center, the British and Spanish consulates, CBS Westinghouse Electric, and the offices of the San Francisco Chronicle. The main event would be the occupying of 19 major intersections (the choicest being the intersection of Bush and Powelb| and the “parking lot of your choice.”

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