We went to the war protest rally downtown two Sundays ago, and it was the largest one we have ever been a part of. We think. Possibly it could have been the smallest, since attendance reports vary enormously at these types of things, with discrepancies between the organizers and the police often ranging in the hundreds of thousands.
In any case, we believe the Chronicle's initial report of 200,000 (later revised waaay downward), and we can personally attest that a lively, wacky time was had by all. Serious and silly messages were given equal airtime. Approximations of some of the silliest:
Menopausal women against the war
This dyke will eat Bush alive
Stop American Imperialism (This sign was held by a 5-year-old)
Just two more gay guys against the war (This was held by two men who also bore pinwheels)
The spirit of unity among the protesters made us wish we were alive and fully formed during the '60s, and that bra burning was still in fashion. The part we didn't enjoy, however, was the splinter groups that exploited the event to showcase their unrelated causes.
The Volkswagen that ran entirely on vegetable oil was cute, and we can see the relevance of the "Free Palestine"-ers, but what exactly did medical marijuana have to do with it? The pot advocates wore oversized fake bud-leaf necklaces, and we might have been more drawn to their cause if they'd hooked up with the lady who was selling "peace brownies." As it was, we had no idea why they were there. Maybe this strand of logical reasoning will help us sort it out:
Marijuana, like cocaine, is a controlled substance.
Bush allegedly snorted cocaine in his youth.
Bush allegedly wants to control Iraq.
Therefore, Bush would like to snort Iraq.
Sorry, this isn't helping.
Overall we felt the protest went very well, but unfortunately we fall in with the cynical group that believes Bush will continue his death campaign no matter how many people march against him.
But that doesn't mean this protest -- and the many others held in San Francisco this past year -- was useless. On the contrary, the demonstrations are helping to stimulate the depressed local economy.
People come from across California for these events, and bring their hippie cash with them. BART reported a surge in ridership and, aside from the Seattle-like vandalizing of a few downtown businesses, most of the stores certainly benefited from greater foot traffic. The line at one Wendy's food counter, for example, was nearly as long as the line for its bathroom.
And don't forget about all the vendors selling pretzels, churros, and popcorn, as well as the farmers' market. Nothing to fill up a hungry lefty's tummy like raw organic veggies. And the people selling protest signs, banners, and T-shirts can now probably afford carpeting for the apartments above their parents' garages, or wherever they live.
So, even if we can't stop the war in Iraq, at least we can develop a peace industry right here in the Bay Area, on a scale not seen since Ben & Jerry's. If these protests keep getting bigger, then lava lamp, patchouli, and tie-dyed T-shirt sales will spike, and our corners will be lined with peace-sign-sticker vending machines. We can move City Hall to the Haight-Ashbury, and people will come from all over the world to protest here. Millions of them will find love and marry other peaceniks, move to San Francisco, and have healthy, peace-loving, taxpaying children. And that would be only the beginning. The possibilities are endless.