Today’s San Francisco Chronicle (it has the largest circulation in Northern California) featured yesterday’s mammoth anti-war march and rally on its first page. Still the anti-war events played second fiddle to the World Series, a report that the paper’s editors put in the prime spot above the fold. The paper’s single article and photos didn’t begin to capture the event. Much, much better in that regard were the aerial pictures shown on the TV news reports. Those shots showed the large plaza in front of the city hall jammed with demonstrators, many of whom spilled over onto the adjoining streets.
To my mind, the demonstration indicated that the 9/11 syndrome that inhibited the development of popular anti-war sentiment no longer is dominant. Once again, the Vietnam War Syndrome is front and center. Some say that unlike the 1970’s this anti-war mood and movement are intersecting with the effects of decades of “downsizing” and the recent corporate scandals that have made anti-capitalism respectable again. If so, that circumstance should lead to the involvement of organized labor in a growing anti-war movement. Already, some unions have adopted anti-war resolutions, some much better than others.
However, I didn’t see any signs of participation by organized labor yesterday. The head of San Francisco’s labor council spoke, but his attendance at most labor events, as well as various marches and events is taken for granted, along with his close association with and support of the area’s major political figures. Missing, too, was any appreciable turnout by blacks. There were black speakers (Barbara Lee, for instance), but one had to search to find a black protestor. That’s not to say that the demonstration was not ethnically diverse. Palestinian demonstrations were prominent and Filipinos, a community hard hit by job losses at airports, were numerous.
In general the demonstration attracted many young people, but also many veterans of the anti-Vietnam War events of several decades ago. It’s no more than a guess, but the median age might have been in the high thirties or low forties. The demonstration was not strictly a Bay Area event, as was the anti-war rally a few weeks back that drew some 8,000 to a different venue in the city. Yesterday, protestors from the Northwest and the Rockies joined demonstrators from throughout the state, down to the Mexican border.
Unlike so many demonstrations in the past period the rally was not limited to the cadre and periphery of a section of the left (broadly defined). I’d guess that a majority yesterday were unaffiliated folks who came out because they wanted to express their anti-war sentiments, not because they were directly mobilized. Judging by the applause the crowd was equally supportive of Democrats, Greens (Pete Camejo spoke) and the unvarnished anti-imperialist sentiments that a few speakers expressed.
Crowd estimates vary and differ, much like they usually do. The cops say 42,000 (such preciseness!) were there and the rally’s organizers announced from the platform that 100,000 were there. My guesstimate (which I doubled after seeing the aerial shots) is that the crowd would have fit nicely into Candlestick Park with some room leftover. When set-up for a football game, that arena holds 60,000. However, I agree with those who say that the demonstration was only exceeded by some of the larger demonstrations of the Vietnam era. I can vouch for the fact that it took about three hours for the marchers (mostly eight or so abreast) to pass a single spot.
Whatever the actual numbers were, this much is clear. Any attack on Iraq is going to be followed by massive demonstrations, and in more communities. The capitalist politicians have created anti-war momentum that’s not about to go away, as long as the threats of war, if not actual war, persist.