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War watch: reflecting on protests, arrests

Mills College Weekly

As the sun rose on the city the morning of March 20, 2003, people were preparing for a day to remember. It was the day that many people hoped would not come but were expecting. The day brought thousands of people in the Bay Area together to march in the streets of San Francisco’s financial district to shut down business as usual, using their bodies and voices to show opposition to the U.S. led war with Iraq.

Junior Catherine “Carolina” Edgerton was one of many Mills students to participate and get arrested in the mass protest.

Edgerton, who views protests as collective and non-hierarchical, attributes the day’s success to the variety of roles that protestors played, from getting arrested to bringing water and food to demonstrators.

Zadick Shapiro, a lawyer with the National Lawyer’s Guild (NLG) stands in opposition to the U.S. war with Iraq and says that arrests are just one form of protesting that gets a lot of press.

Protestors, he said, are getting creative in their approach to demonstrations by literally blocking entrances to businesses they think are profiting from the war.

Sophomore Ashley Moore, who said that her job prevented her from attending the demonstrations, was one of many students watching the protests on the news.

“I’ve been feeling really frustrated,” Moore said about her wanting to participate in the protests. “I wish I had less on the agenda so that I could participate more fully,” she added.

Moore is on many lists for activists and hopes to attend protests in the future.

Jon Viola, another lawyer with the NLG, recommended that anyone planning to protest should attend legal training to gain information on what to bring and what to say if arrested.

“In San Francisco,” he said, “apparently the only thing you have to do [to get arrested] is show up” which he said is the type of pre-emptive arrests and arbitrary detention strategy the SFPD are using to deter people’s right to protest.

Cynthia Guevarra, a Mills junior, worries about the Bush administration’s declaration to remain in pursuit of Baghdad until the administration declares victory.

Viola, who works with the Legal Support Collective to dispatch observers to monitor locations where there’s potential human and civil rights abuse, expects the anti-war movement to grow in the event of a protracted conflict.

As the atrocities come to light, and the bodies add up, he said, people will continue to march in the streets.

In response to continued protests, Viola predicts an upsurge in police resistance and the potential involvement of the Federal authority.

“There’s gonna be more and more of a domestic crisis here and its gonna be played out in the streets,” Viola said, predicting the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, and a possible bringing in of the National Guard to implement a street curfew.

Although this forecast sounds dire, Shapiro, who opposes the U.S. war with Iraq said that these arrests, no matter how numerous, are not deterring

protestors because it’s happening all over the world. “This type of resistance is unprecedented,” Shapiro said.

While the consequences of the current war are unknown, many people are discussing the American civil rights that are potentially in jeopardy.

“The future doesn’t look stupendous,” said Edgerton, “but its really frightening to think about what it would be like if people weren’t resisting.”

As police continue to adopt crowd control tactics that some say resemble a military, students like Moore are considering alternative ways to protest.

“Communication and spreading knowledge to different people, getting their ideas and just thinking more about it,” said Moore. “Just raising people’s awareness and just talking about it, I think that’s definitely a protest in itself.”