[Hpn] S.F. counter-inaugural one of many in U.S.

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Sun, 21 Jan 2001 17:08:28 -0700


http://www.examiner.com/news/default.jsp?story=protest.0121

Sunday     Jan 21, 2001
S.F. counter-inaugural one of many in U.S.
By Johnny Brannon
Of the Examiner Staff

    As President George W. Bush delivered an inaugural address urging
Americans to "be citizens, not spectators," thousands of protesters took to
the streets Saturday and angrily labeled Bush everything from a thief to a
chimp. In San Francisco, which awarded Bush few votes in the November
election, the words were vicious, the sentiment vitriolic.

    "He stole the damn election, that's all there is to it," said Walnut
Creek resident Jesse Mackinnon, who marched through the city carrying a
hand-lettered sign that read "Hail To The Cheat." "If democracy was working
here today the way it should be, Bush wouldn't be president," Mackinnon
snapped at a noon rally that drew several thousand demonstrators to Civic
Center Plaza.

    San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano exhorted the
crowd to send Bush a message: "We are the people! Kiss our collective ass!"
"We are going to give him all the aggravation he deserves," Ammiano vowed.
"Bush will not get away with it."

    Elizabeth Martinez, director of the Institute for MultiRacial Justice,
urged Americans of all colors to form a broad coalition to resist any slide
to the political right by the Bush administration. "We should stop competing
and form alliances," Martinez said. "The future is scary indeed, it's
horrible indeed, but it's a time of great opportunity."

    Others displayed signs that painted Bush as a "Knucklehead Corporate
Puppet," and a "Drunk Drivin,' Crack Smokin,' Chimp."

    Besides blasting the conservative president, protesters pumped a
smorgasbord of liberal and leftist causes. They demanded an end to economic
sanctions against Iraq and Cuba; freedom for death-row inmate Mumia Abu
Jamal; abolition of the death penalty; no U.S. involvement in Columbia's
drug war; land for Palestinians in Israel; and a halt to U.S. military
practice bombings of Vieques Island, Puerto Rico.

    The demonstrators marched down Van Ness Avenue in a parade that
stretched four blocks, and rallied again at Jefferson Square Park. "I think
there's a dark cloud over the country as long as Bush is president,"
Berkeley resident Steve Mardeusz said as he viewed the parade from the steps
of City Hall.

    A few bystanders jeered the crowd or grumbled about traffic snarls it
caused. "Best coup I ever saw. Wonderful," a man walking into the main
library said sarcastically of Bush's ascent to power. "Go in there and read
a book," a protester responded.

    A few hundred protesters converged at Powell and Market streets at about
4 p.m., and several blockaded the front door to a GAP store. One man staged
a sit-in on the cable car turnaround while clutching a flower and a placard
that read "Republicans Suck."

    A dozen police officers in riot gear responded to the scene but by 5
p.m. had made no arrests. Capt. Alex Fagan said he was not eager to haul
anyone to jail, despite taunts from some in the group.

    "I went to [UC] Berkeley from '68 to '72 so I know what this is all
about," Fagan said. "I think we'll just wait them out." He said no
protesters had been arrested in the city so far.

    Elsewhere in California, it was much the same. In Los Angeles, more than
2,000 people shouted anti-Bush slogans and waved handmade signs that read
"One Nation Under Fraud" and "Remember Florida" at a downtown rally. "It's
time to have an inauguration of our own," said former state Sen. Tom Hayden
of Los Angeles. "We begin here and now. This will be a season of storms ...
when we begin to turn the tide."

    Another protest drew about 300 people from more than two dozen civil
rights, labor, and women's groups outside the state Capitol in Sacramento.
They sang songs such as "George Bush Ain't My President" that lamented the
Supreme Court decision finishing Florida election results.

    Nancy Price, national vice chair of the Alliance for Democracy, came
dressed in a white sheet and paper crown. "I'm Democracy. You might not
recognize me," she said before launching into a tirade against voting
machines. 

    One of the protests even drew some of Hollywood's star power. Actor Ed
Asner was the master of ceremonies in Los Angeles and was joined by
entertainer Ed Begley Jr. Asner told the crowd he was "the West Coast
response to Ricky Martin," referring to the Latin singer's performance on
the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington during pre-inauguration
festivities. 

    As Asner introduced a litany of speakers, hundreds of people passed out
fliers, signed petitions and pranced around in homemade costumes that would
humor any political satirist. Protester Sally Marr wore a Statue of Liberty
mask with a black veil draped over it. She said she was mourning the demise
of democracy and fears the new Bush administration will do more harm than
good. "This is a test to see if America is awake or sleeping," she said.
"People will start waking up when they start losing their rights."

    Peace activist Jerry Rubin -- no relation to the late 60s activist --
publicly ended his two-week fast to protest by eating a non-Florida orange
and implored protesters to continue the fight. "Let's work on a new movement
to bring back our democracy," he told the crowd. "What you do between these
rallies is what really counts."

    In Washington, thousands hurled insults, bottles and an egg to mock
Bush's big day. The tensions forced the new president's motorcade to lurch
along the parade route. Protesters clashed briefly with police clad in riot
gear at a few flash points while Bush remained inside his armored stretch
car for most of the parade up a soggy, cold Pennsylvania Avenue. A couple of
protesters threw bottles before the presidential limousine arrived, and one
hurled an egg that landed near the motorcade.

    But the protesters managed little else to interrupt the festivities in
the face of a massive show of 7,000 police officers. Police Chief Charles
Ramsay strode alongside his men, wielding a nightstick.

    As the day grew darker and colder, authorities had arrested only four
people and activists began to disperse. "If he had won clearly, I wouldn't
have troubled to come here," said Mack Wilder, a construction worker from
Greensboro, N.C., who joined more than 100 others from the state for a
five-hour bus journey through fog and rain.

    Bush remained in his limousine for most of the traditional parade route
up Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. The new
president finally exited for a brief walk outside only after he reached a
secure zone near the White House filled with inauguration ticketholders and
no protesters. 

    The protests were the largest since those during Richard Nixon's 1973
inauguration during the Vietnam war. Those protests drew about 60,000;
organizers of the Bush protests anticipated 20,000. Predictions of sleet and
snow did not materialize, and the protesters -- as well as the celebrants --
faced little worse than mild drizzle and fog.

    Though protesters had many disparate causes, most said they were
motivated by the Florida election controversy. Bob Rogers, one of the
organizers of the "Voter March," said the fact that Bush captured the White
House even though Al Gore won the popular vote by 500,000 guaranteed
busloads of demonstrators. "These are moderate, working people, motivated by
anger, embarrassment, that kind of sentiment," he said. "They're wondering,
'We put a man on the moon, why can't we count the vote?'"

    On the Capitol steps where he was sworn in, Bush exchanged smiles and
pleasantries with Al Gore -- a civility that at times extended into the
streets. Pro- and anti-Bush protesters joked with each other, and jostled
each other on crowded subway trains. At some junctures, the sides exchanged
insults. When pro-Bush people chanted, "Help is on the way," protesters
countered "Hell is on the way." At one point, protesters took over a section
of inaugural parade bleachers set aside for ticketed guests. Earlier, a few
officers were hurt after protesters threw bottles at them. One officer was
seen bleeding from the eye, but none required hospitalization.

    Two streakers jumped barriers while a cowboy in underwear sang to the
crowd. The streakers were detained by police. The marchers faced stringent
security measures, including a first: Checkpoints along the parade route.
There were miles of steel fencing, and Secret Service agents in long black
overcoats jogged alongside the motorcade.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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