April 09, 2003

April 5, 2003 Oakland Anti-War March

Last Saturday Jessica and I took part in the March for Peace and Justice in Oakland. We got together the night before to make signs, most of which we gave away to other protesters. The Berkeley group that was to march the entire length of Telegraph Avenue got together at Lower Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus starting at 10am and heard speeches by varied speakers, such as students from other campuses, state schools and high schools, teachers, journalists and veterans. Eventually we all started to line up and the march actually started at Bancroft and Dana, went south along Dana and made a left onto Dwight.

The police rode beside us on their motorcycles and we kept to the south-bound side of the street. There seemed to be very little, if any, protester-police contact, they were dressed in normal motorcycle-cop uniforms and I even saw one take a flyer from a protester, speak to him and read it. A world of difference from the San Francisco police conduct in the last few weeks... and a world of difference from the action that would take place just 2 days later at the Port of Oakland .

One of the groups represented in the Berkeley march was "Veterans for Peace." One of their members, a Vietnam vet (like my parents), spoke at Lower Sproul and another of their members made his statement with style. I really liked this guy's sign, the other side said "Drink French Wine".

As we approached MacArthur, we could see the massive group of people assembled at Mosswood Park and just made their way to Telegraph. I was immediately struck by the diversity of their march and the huge banners each group had to represent themselves. The Berkeley marchers had to stop to allow the Oakland marchers to turn onto Telegraph from MacArthur and they had so many more people than our group that it seemed to take forever and ever, but it gave me a good chance to get a good shot of the front of the Berkeley march. We got tired of waiting for the Oakland march to end and decided to join them.

The energy of the Oakland group was very different from the Berkeley group. The protesters were not only more diverse in race, age and physical disabilities, but were also more high-energy. There were drums, amplified music, and much more rhythmic, almost gospel-like, chanting and singing. As we passed under 580, protesters took advantage of the echo by increasing the volume and engergy of their cheers. This gave me the impression that this march wasn't just about anti-this and anti-that, but about joining the community together for one cause and working for positive change... to reclaim our national symbols, express their feelings about the war creatively, sometimes very creatively: Trekie, Tank, Tank Dude, Gas Pump, Mourning Women.

Finally, we reached City Hall Plaza. By this time, our feet hurt, my arm was starting to numb from holding my big-ass sign up for so long with my left arm (because my digital camera was strapped to my right wrist to avoid dropping it) and we were pretty tired. The march had turned onto 14th from Broadway and filled the street in front of city hall, dancing to the music and were probably all just as tired as Jess and I were. Marchers were still filing into the area but as we were unsure what there was left to do at the Plaza besides look at the booths that sold anti-war wares or try to seek out the great-smelling BBQ, so we headed for BART. On my journey home, carrying two huge anti-war signs (the one I was carrying all day made it into the Chronicle, the colorful one behind the guy w/ the orange hat), getting some dirty and some favorable looks from AC Transit riders, and cheered on by a homeless man as if I were a one-woman march.

So that was our day. It went very smoothly, the weather was gorgeous, the mood was uplifting but firm in resolve and from the amount of positive press coverage this event received, I'd say it was an all-around success. I wish more of you had been there to experience it... not for my sake but just to be apart of that large, truly united community, if only just for a little while. I realize I've suddenly become this activist-type chick, always ranting about the war and trying to suck people into protesting with me, but, believe me, no one's more shocked than me. Something about this conflict has lit a fire under my proverbial ass, and I just can't sit helplessly by and watch all this BS unfold. There's going to be a "day of action" at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco on Saturday, April 12, 2003 at 12 noon.

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Comments

i love that the guy holding the french fries sign is walking past a mcdonald's. did you do that on purpose?

Posted by: holohan at April 10, 2003 08:17 AM

His friend was taking a picture of him there, I took advantage.

Posted by: Kristina at April 10, 2003 01:15 PM

Great narrative, Kris! I wish I could have been there. I'll make up for it with extra boisterous protesting on Saturday. Let's make signs tonight. Does anyone have any ideas for messages?

Posted by: Cody at April 10, 2003 02:35 PM
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