The Nov. 3rd rally: A spirited antiwar rally ended a bleak day in San Francisco

"No matter who wins!" the leaflets read. There was to be an antiwar demonstration at Powell and Market in San Francisco on the evening of November 3rd. Few people I know seemed to be very inspired by John Kerry, but most of us had voted for him anyway, perhaps even expecting him to put up a fight if there were evidence that the Neocons had stolen the election. By conceding to Bush before the facts were all in, he'd failed in that expectation, showing even less spirit than Al Gore had back in 2000.

It was a bleak, sunless afternoon, and raindrops began falling as I set out for the evening rally. The weather itself seemed to reflect the dismal fact that Bush had successfully re-stolen the highest office in the land. The corporate media was calling it Bush's "re-election."

During the train ride to San Francisco I wondered how many people would even bother to attend. A couple hundred? At least I hoped it would be that many on the evening of this dismal day. As I emerged from the Powell Street BART station I could hear sounds of a rally in progress, and when I got to the top of the steps I found a crowd much larger than I'd expected. I couldn't even make my way through to the street. Among the signs and banners was a large one that read, "THE LEFT WILL RISE."

At demonstrations, I usually encounter a number of people that I know, and, the smaller the gathering, the more friends and acquaintances I generally find. In this crowd I didn't see anybody I knew, and in a way I took it as a good sign. It indicated both that the gathering was large, and also that it wasn't just the same people showing up all the time. Nevertheless, I was hoping to find somebody I knew, and I walked around the station exit area to reach the other side of the rally.

There at last, I saw a familiar sign that read, "Stop Mad Cowboy Disease," carried by Mark Boynton. Nearby were three or four more people from my affinity group, Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace. They were being interviewed by a reporter, and the next day's Contra Costa Times quoted Catherine Jones as saying, "The sheer gloom of what happened has energized people."

People did seem energized. Some distance from us, speakers were talking into a rather inefficient sound system, and people within hearing distance of it were cheering and clapping, but I couldn't make out any of what was being said. No matter, we spoke animatedly among ourselves, commenting on the latest news and on the unexpectedly large turnout. Catherine told me she hadn't even anticipated more than a few dozen. "Do you think an antiwar crowd would be anywhere this large if Kerry had won?" she said with a smile.

"Bush is a great unifier," quipped a fellow near us, "Bush is our Bin Laden."

Several people carried signs reading "Stop the 9/11 Cover-up." Someone suggested that now we could also begin a campaign with signs reading, "Stop the Nov. 2nd Cover-up."

Some carried Pinocchio-like images of Bush with an extended nose. There were also cardboard coffins, painted black and bearing the words, "Died without healthcare," and "Died from corporate greed."

Others carried a wide assortment of antiwar signs including "Out of Iraq," and "End the Occupation." A large hand-lettered sign read, "Wake up America, this is WRONG."

One group carried photos of martyrs; one of these was Monseñor Romero and under his picture the word "¡Presente!"

The evening was chilly, but the crowd’s demeanor was warm and spirited. My earlier feeling of gloom and doom had lifted, and I was glad to be there. The rain had stopped.

Some time after 6 p.m. we set out for 24th and Mission streets. We took up the right-hand lane of Market Street, and eventually turned south on Valencia. Drums beat as we marched, and one fellow played a bagpipe; our procession was well endowed with musical instruments of all sorts. Chants broke out from time to time.

"Not our president -- Not our war!"
"Not our president -- Not our war!"

Up ahead was a contingent of anarchists with their red and black flags. "¡Viva! ¡Viva! ¡Anarquista!" they chanted, "¡Viva! ¡Viva! ¡Anarquista!"

There were also several Asian groups, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and other Far Eastern ethnic groups as well, carrying drums and banners.

Motorists honked and waved peace signs; people in upper stories of buildings waved. We waved back.

"Who organized this demonstration?" a young fellow asked me, and I replied that it was “Not In Our Name.” The fellow then told me that he hadn't heard there was going to be a demonstration; he'd seen us from his apartment window and had come out to join in.

Most of the marchers looked to be in their early twenties. There was also a substantial but smaller number of older people like myself. It's always hard to estimate the size of a demonstration, especially when I'm in the middle of it. I later read estimates ranging from two to five thousand.

Eventually we turned left on 24th Street and then completed our march to the BART station on Mission Street. Just as we got there, it began to rain. People immediately began to scatter for shelter, and many left to go home.

The last event of the evening was the burning of George Bush in effigy. Those of us still there, now only a few hundred, stood in the rain and chanted:

"Bush, you liar -- We'll set your ass on fire!"