Bay Area activists took to the streets of San Francisco and Oakland Thursday evening to show their opposition to the House of Representatives’ 296-133 vote giving President Bush broad authority to use military force in Iraq.
Waving banners and chanting, “Congress says war, we say peace,” a march of about 200 people left the Montgomery BART station in San Francisco and marched to the Federal Building, where the crowd had swelled to more than 500.
Madea Benjamin of Global Exchange, one of the protest organizers, rallied the crowd: “We’ve got to take back our government offices,” she said. “Just because Congress says yes to war doesn’t mean there will be a war in Iraq.”
Benjamin called on those present to build a strong grassroots anti-war movement and reminded them that they were part of a worldwide protest. “We have the majority of the world’s communities on our side,” she said, going on to thank the 11 out of 13 Bay Area members of Congress who voted against the measure.
Only Ellen Taucher, D-Contra Costa County, and Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, voted for it.
“Let’s feel good about the people in California that have said no to war,” Benjamin said, singling out the opposition of Rep. Barbara Lee, who represents Oakland and Berkeley.
Lee had introduced an alternative resolution, defeated 355-72, that would have committed the United States to the United Nations’ inspections process, but not authorized unilateral force.
The resolution that passed would allow the president to act without going through the United Nations, although it encourages him to exhaust all diplomatic means first and requires him to report to Congress every 60 days if he does take military action.
Later Thursday night, the Senate approved a similar resolution 77-23, delivering the Bush administration final victory in its push for war powers.
Berkeley resident Xochitl Johnson, an organizer with Not in Our Name, one of the sponsoring organizations, was in the crowd.
“I refuse to allow my government to wage war in Iraq,” she said. “This has nothing to do with Sept. 11.”
Meanwhile, about 60 people from the People’s Non-violent Response Coalition walked through Oakland’s Chinatown and Jack London Square, passing out leaflets and making their protest visible with their signs.
“People honked and waved,” said Ying Lee, a Berkeley resident and former aide to Lee.
Among Berkeley residents there are about 5,000 registered Republicans, while there are about 40,000 Democrats and 5,000 Greens. Dr. Lance Montauk, who is running for the non-partisan school board, is among them.
While he opposed the Vietnam War, Montauk says the impending war in Iraq is different.
“It’s a dangerous situation,” he said, noting that a positive outcome of Sept. 11 was that it “awakened us” to the possibility of a nuclear attack from Iraq.
- The Associated Press
contributed to this story