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(en) more breaking news from rebel San Francisco

From Biotic Baking Brigade <bbb@asis.com>
Date Sat, 22 Mar 2003 07:55:35 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

Thursday, March 20, drew to a close with an estimated 4000-6000 people
still marching through the streets of downtown SF as of 10 pm. Below
are notes on current events for A-infos readers. SF Indymedia,
http://sf.indymedia.org/, and SF Liberation Radio,
http://www.liberationradio.net/, are covering these events.

--People in the streets did an excellent job of shutting down SF by
utilizing cat-and mouse techniques. So, while there were affinity
groups and large gatherings of people that would occupy an intersection
until being arrested (and should be commended for this action), a more
effective tactic was for smaller groups to occupy the intersection
until the riot cops came and got in formation (which, because they
operate in a hierarchical command structure, and because downtown
traffic was completely tied-up, would often take a very long time), and
then walk a block to the next unoccupied intersection and take it over!
This worked extremely well, and allowed people to stay out of jail and
keep active all through the day.

--There were many forms of direct action taken besides road and
building occupations. According to eyewitnesses and Indymedia reports,
windows of corporate targets were smashed, graffiti was left all over
downtown, fire hydrants were opened and gushers of water loosed,
newspaper boxes and garbage cans were moved out into the streets as
barracades, corporate media vans had their tires slashed and were
spraypainted, cop cars were spraypainted and had windows smashed and
tires slashed, and a military recruiting center had their doors smashed
in and interior dramatically redecorated, as well as files looted and
tossed out into the streets.

--It should be noted that there was a more aggressive stance taken
against the police and corporate media than at any time since the
Rodney King riots and the first Gulf War in the early 1990s. Aside from
property destruction against the corporate media, reporters on the
street were constantly confronted and hassled. The police were
overheard saying that they had never seen such aggressive behavior at
protests, and they seemed surprised, overwhelmed, and generally freaked
out. Large dumpsters were on several occasions pushed through lines of
riot police, and according to an Indymedia report, a violent cop was
attacked by angry demonstrators who were sick of being hit by his

--Apparently, police have claimed to the media that after they arrested
the Black Blockers, they found caches of Molotov cocktails, rocks, and
other weapons, but they exact claim has not been confirmed at this
time. Also, they claimed that a protester tried to take a gun from a
cop which led to injuries and a violent confrontation between police
and protesters. However, eyewitnesses claim that this allegation may
refer to an incident where a lone officer rushed into the BB trying to
arrest someone, and people in response stopped him and were telling him
to calm down and back off. He was seen to be very afraid and calling
into his radio for backup, but in reality he was not in any danger,
though he may have felt that way because he was in the middle of
several hundred masked-up marchers.

--Here are a few snippets from corporate media reports that are of
strategic and general interest:

It took three hours for anti-war activists to cripple downtown San
Francisco using hit-and-run civil disobedience tactics to an extent
never before seen in the Bay Area.
The city that nursed the sit-ins and be-ins of the counterculture
protesters of the 1960s was gummed up by a form of demonstration that
relies on the whims of small knots of activists, who flitted from block
block instead of lumbering with the predictability of a mass march...
A police spokesman said the mood on the force is one of exhaustion
due to the overtime hours and the stress of dealing with the tens of
thousands of protestors that have clogged city streets for the past
three days.
On Thursday morning demonstrators occupied 50 separate sites,
predominately intersections, where officers were called on to make
arrests and clear city streets, the police said. Between 1,300 and
1,400 people were arrested, according to the department.

"We don't really know how many people are out there or where they're
next," Ladan Sobhani, an organizer with Direct Action Against the War,
said shortly before noon. "People make that decision on their own."
At the 11 a.m. peak of the protests, activists had shut down 30
intersections, blockaded a dozen buildings and forced police to ask
motorists not to come into downtown.
Often, police would encircle the demonstrators only to find
encircled. Sometimes as few as 25 demonstrators shut down an
and stifled traffic for blocks.
"It's a cat-and-mouse game," said Deputy Chief Rick Bruce, who heads
Police Department's special operations bureau.
"We're in a totally reactive mode," he said. "We just respond to
activity. It's tough. They are moving faster than us. They shut down all
of Market Street this morning. As soon as we would reopen a section,
would shut down another one."
A protester from Oakland said police inadvertently helped
demonstrators seal off streets.
"When we block a street for 20 minutes, the cops come and block it
another half an hour when they surround a few people and block off the
corners, " said Williams, who said he had helped clog 10 intersections
before noon -- but always moved before officers could arrest him.
"They're slower than us, so they compensate with total overkill,"
said. "There will be 50 cops arresting five people. But hundreds of us
move on. "
Capt. Kevin Dillon said demonstrators move faster than police
"because they can violate the law. It our job to enforce the law. If we disperse
them illegally or make an illegal arrest, it will haunt us. They just
move as fast as they want."
Even protest coordinators were in poor position to predict its
There were no leaders -- merely "pied pipers" who escorted activists
the dispatch point at Justin Herman Plaza to where reinforcements were
Many of the protesters belonged to one of two categories -- affinity
groups, dozens of clusters of five to 25 friends or like-minded
individuals who
had been planning their initial demonstration target for months; and
free-lancers who showed up with no set destination in mind.
The affinity groups promptly fanned out to more than two dozen
blocking intersections, encircling buildings or blockading entrances.
"The large demonstrations are great, too," said a 21-year-old
Laney College student. "But we've been doing them, and obviously people
haven't been listening. With this, people can't just view them from
(People inconvenienced by them) have to stop and think about what's
happening in the world."
Officer Drew Cohen, who was documenting the police response on his
camcorder for the department, said he came away with a respect for
demonstrators' tactics.
"They succeeded this morning -- they shut the city down," Cohen said.
"They're highly organized, but they are totally spontaneous. I think
police are doing a great job, but the protesters are always a few steps
ahead of us.
"Our success will come when we arrest so many of them we have
their ranks," Cohen said. "Otherwise, we can only play catch-up."

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