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Counter-Inaugural: SF

“You got money for war but can’t feed the poor, say Hell NO! Say Hell NO!?
On Thursday, January 20, 2005 an enthusiastic crowd gathered in front of the San Francisco Civic Center in protest of the inauguration of President George W. Bush. Chilly winds and concerned faces loomed across the landscape of this primarily liberal, yet totally inclusive, gathering. The protest was hosted by the organization to Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.). Vendors and social organizations set up tables to sell information and cheap humor before the protest began. Everything from Socialist literature to t-shirts carrying pictures of Vice President Dick Cheney and the message, “Big Fat Dick? underlying the portrait were visible. At 5:00 p.m. people slowly poured across the grass, carrying picket signs, courage, and character to the explicitly vehement atmosphere. The solid pulse of a drum could be heard across the collective landscape, signifying the beat of a movement. Supporters planted down onto cold wet lawn and listened enthusiastically as representatives of A.N.S.W.E.R. made themselves heard out of the bed of an old Chevy pickup. The main topics of their educated rants included, but were not limited to, imperialist occupation in Iraq, job outsourcing, U.S. policy, foreign policy and the international policing therein, as well as the privatization of social security, and same sex marriage. One particularly interesting speaker at the rally, Dr. Henry Clark, accused the American government of being, “Fascist Jackboots!? Ralph Shoreman, member of the San Francisco Working Labor Movement, tallied up the military budget for the war in Iraq to demonstrate that it had bottomed out. Shoreman stated that, though much of the American public believe that the war in Iraq has been a success thus far, the government has actually spent over two hundred billion dollars to do a half ass job of imposing totalitarian leadership. Shoreman believes that the war is far from over, alluding to the fact that the government has just called for 500,000 additional troops. An impending military draft is in the works. At his inauguration, President Bush pitched the idea to the nation during his inaugural speech, “I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our troops…Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself – and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character.?

A wide range of opinionated citizens attended the event, making it a hot spot for political altercations. A small group of six Bush supporters stood on the side gently waving a Bush/Cheney picket ticket. Steve Roberts, a student at Diablo Hills Community College in Pleasanton, California, said that he and his conservative clansmen had come to tell the liberal protestors what he believed to be a fundamental fact of American politics. Roberts stated, “When we have a president, we support our president, no matter who the president is.? The anarchists abrading colored bandanas on their faces were by far the most enthusiastic protesters. Not only did they burn American flags in the middle of Embarcadero Plaza, they also kept a group of 250 police officers annoyed and occupied by deciding to play a game of ‘Anarchist Anarchist Cop’ (A timely form of Duck Duck Goose) on the corner of Market and Van Ness. One of the anarchists, Cooper, made it clear that he and his comrades had no specific tactics in mind when they attended the rally. They simply wanted to attract attention to their discontent with the capitalist system. Another historical lesson: the only way to enact change is to break with the norm and piss people off in an interesting way.

After the speakers had finished heating the crowd up to a boiling point, they began a march down Market Street. Concerned citizens followed with soft feet and powerful voices. Some protestors started up traditional chants such as, “You got money for war but can’t feed the poor, say Hell NO! Say Hell NO!? Shrill shrieking war cries emanated from other sections of the liberal mass as it marched past faces of impatient drivers waiting at every intersection. Police lined the sidewalk perimeters to contain the marchers, some carrying batons; others dressed in full riot gear. The march ended at the New Embarcadero Plaza, with smoke drifting up from a burning heap of American flags.

The march brought communal solidarity to the progressive struggle. Throughout the event I was constantly being bombarded by enormous amounts of fliers that advertised upcoming progressive gatherings. The people who frequent rallies such as this are not hardcore revolutionaries. They are every day folks who decide to go hit up a protest after work, before coming home to make dinner. These people were not in any rush to tear down the status quo or rip President Bush from office. They’re in it for the long haul. As stated by Adam-Antium, a spoken word artist who performed at Embarcadero Plaza after the marching had ceased, “There were no fair weather fans here tonight.? Currently recording through CFO, this musical poet delivered a call to unite the people with an uncanny rhyme style and vocabulary. Omar, an American who had just returned from Iraq, made the point that a lot of people talk a big game at these conventions, yet these same people are the first to refuse giving up their tangible luxuries in favor of reaching a real socialist state of affairs. “By following through, this movement will become a whole lot more legitimate in the eyes of the people on the other side.?

So what kind of impact do these protests really have in the scheme of things? Dana Carlson, a liberal supporter at the rally, provided a simple profound answer to this question when he stated, “It has absolutely no impact whatsoever. The government has turned a deaf ear to the cries of the people. But that doesn’t matter. You have to speak out, even when no one is listening.?

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