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Anti-War Movement Makes a Big Splash
August West
On my way to the demonstration in San Francisco on September 29th, held to counter the drive towards war, the rising assault on civil liberties and increasing attacks on people who are or perceived to be Middle Eastern or Muslim, I started feeling apprehensions. What if this turns out to be yet another boring leftist demo? What if it features nothing more than the usual pacifist pleading for the authorities to be nice? What if the turnout is pathetically small, and flag-waving counter-demonstrators outnumber us? I didn't see very many people who seemed headed to the demo while on the BART mass transit train,which didn't make me feel better. Even as I got off in the Mission District just blocks away from Dolores Park, where the demo was to take place, little evidence of it was visible.

Then, I got to the park, and it was full, and more and more people were arriving. Oh yeah, the usual suspects were there: The Spartacists, the LaRouchites, the RCP,...but people were ignoring them.Speakers went on, with a general theme of placing the 9/11 attacks in the context of a violent US foreign policy, while expressing explicit sympathy for the victims. Nothing real exciting, but nothing offensive. Then we went on a march through the Mission. And this is when things really took off. The puppets constructed by Art and Revolution, a common presence in anti-globalization demos, sort of led the way, though no one really led. The crowd was very diverse, though tending toward the young, very San Francisco, though this time many more of the Mission's Latinos were in evidence than in past demos. And the energy was intense. Many carried their own picket signs, rather than some mass handout, many carried colorful banners. Lots of t-shirts silk-screened for the occasion. And the mood was very fun, yet defiant, and often explicitely revolutionary. It seemed that many of the people I encountered understood quite clearly that the problem isn't just a specific policy, but the capitalist system. The anti-globaliztion movement has indeed become a force for more than just reform. One woman had on the back of her t-shirt a stenciled message "The task of a revolutionay artist is to make revolution irresistable". I ran into a friend of mine, a young-ish punk woman with rainbow hair, walking with her "chick friends", and had lots of fun seeing how the participants were very individual,yet acted as a unit when necessary.

We did a loop, and came back to the park. People started a spontaneous dance, initiated in particular by a group of young women from Mills College in Oakland. Then, someone yelled out "This is what democracy looks like", a la Seattle N30. The assembled picked that up, and the dance went on and on, frantic energy from many bodies mixing with fragrant illegal smells and dust in the hot California early fall sun, the chants shifting but staying on the same theme. Then a song got started "We've come too far, we're not gonna turn around. We'll fill the streets with justice, we are freedom-bound". The dance turned into a spiral dance, everyone standing around got drawn in. And then we collapsed. But the event kept going.

Given this event was in the plans for less than two weeks, that fighting hasn't started yet, and that the general public is still stunned and angry about 9/11, this outcome was way better than I expected. The one downer is that aside from a couple of anarchist tables (including the IWW), people with politics similar to mine, anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, but with an analysis seemed hard to find. I hope this is not a sign that such people are too arrogant to participate. You cannot change the world by staying in your room and just writing theory, and hope that somehow people will find it. Now more than ever it is important for people with an analysis to share it with a growing milieu that is eager to learn.

(October 2, 2001)

Image: Charles Slay


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