SAN FRANCISCO – As the drumbeat for war grows louder, demonstrators from across the state and beyond turned out in the thousands Saturday to make their own music, protesting possible U.S. military action in Iraq.
While President Bush, in Texas Saturday, said he expects Congress to authorize force against Iraq soon, more than 3,000 protesters filled the city streets in a march and rally for peace in the Middle East.
“We’re against war in Iraq,” said David Browne, 67, of San Francisco, who marched alongside his wife, Caryl, 61. “We see a lack of debate on all these issues.”
One protester carried a banner reading “Drop Bush not Bombs.” Another sign said “Terrorists wear pinstriped suits,” while a person dressed as Wonder Woman carried a hand-lettered sign with one simple word: “Peace.”
“If this war goes through, it will turn the whole Arab world into a cauldron of anti-Americanism,” said Eyad Kishawi, one of the protest’s organizers and a member of the Free Palestine Alliance.
Another participant marched on stilts dressed as the Statue of Liberty with a gag in her mouth and her hands tied behind her back. She was led by a fellow stilt-walker who was dressed as Uncle Sam.
“Liberty has been gagged and taken hostage,” explained Erin McMahon, 41, who wore a President Bush mask. McMahon said the three are members of a performance group called Danger Ha-Ha.
Police estimated the crowd to be about 3,000 strong, while organizers placed the number around 7,000. Those estimates surpassed the 2,000 people police said participated in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank protests in Washington D.C Saturday.
Busloads of protesters came from Seattle, Southern California and around the Bay Area, organizers said. More than 30 groups from the Justice in Palestine Coalition and the International Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition planned the protest.
“We’re here to send three messages: To tell Palestinians and Iraqis there are people who care, to tell Bush we are against war, and to send a message to the U.S. public that they are the only ones who can say no to war,” said Michel Shehaden, 45, of Los Angeles.
San Francisco police said they were not aware that any arrests had been made.