6:20AM 3/19: Wow, five years ago I got up super early like I did today and headed down to Justin Herman Plaza on my bike with a group of friends. Still dark and cold right now. Oh well, big breakfast for me, pack my snacks, and get down to Sansome and Market
7:20AM: I arrive at Sansome Market to find a fairly large crowd milling about at the Direct Action to Stop the War (DASW) “Info Station.” Insane Reagan is across the street doing a McCain “Bomb Iran” spoof already. the BLO is there ready to play the marching beats. Dance Dance Insurrection has arrived. All bands are dressed in pink. DASW volunteers keep telling me to plug in, take the orientation session, etc. I go over to the orientation and don’t get much out of it except a flyer with the Lawyer’s Guild phone number on it. I’m antsy this morning. Calamity bums a light off of me and then complains that the DASW has no tactics about head on confrontation with the SFPD. Ah, it’s cold. Let’s get this Snake March started!
8:20AM: To a New Orleans beat, the Snake March finally hits the road. The DASW “nonleaders” announce that we’re heading to 345 California to support a Chevron lock down. That’s the building where I used to work! We wind around the Financial Dist. and go by the main entrance on 345 California. Dozens of cops have the entrance sealed off. We go around the corner and cheer on a few brave souls who have locked down in front of the parking garage entrance (I find out later that there were people locking down at the main entrance too). They’re dressed a war profiteers (tall cardboard hats) and do not get cut out of the lock down barrels.
9:00AM: The Snake March starts heading towards North Beach on Kearny St. Time to head to Justing Herman Plaza to hook up with the Bikes Not Bombs/Bike Bloc meet up. I break away from the march and ride over to JHP. After I arrive, two women jump up on a wall, announce that they aren’t in charge (just short), and then tell us what to do. I don’t really listen b/c I’m fiddling with getting signed up on the DASW text feed with my phone. I assume that we’re going to have an autonomous action away from the march, die-ins, etc. I do hear “obey street laws” “this is not Critical Mass” and am OK with that.
9:30ishAM: About 30 bikers leave JHP and ride around a bit. We ride to Sansome and Market meet-up area and the nonleaders hang with their DASW peeps while the riders mill about. I’m still antsy so yell “let’s ride somewhere!” No one responds. We finally leave and eventually meet up again with the Snake March! Why did I even leave the march? I ask the nonleaders what are we up to and they say that we’re going to some street theater. The march stops, and the street theater is far away. The crowd has gotten larger, which is exciting.
10:15AM: I’m back with the Snake March at 3rd and Market, and get to witness a great die-in in the intersection. There’s a huge banner with people on the ground waiting to be arrested. Takes a while for the police to clear out the intersection, and even after they do, I ride around in circles nearby to stay warm. This morning has been bitter cold by SF standards. A few of the bikers are cold and join in on the circle ride. I have tried about 3 times to get the riders to gather and break away but they want to support the action. Eventually, a few of the riders are disgusted like am. We want to ride, not stand with our bikes!
10:30AM: While resting and watching the die-in action, a motorcycle cop pulls up to me. “Do you have a wrench?” he asks politely? I think bike wrench so say “uh, no.” “You don’t mind if I look in your bag to see if you have a wrench, do you?” he politely asks again. “Absolutely not! Why would you need to look in my bag for a bike wrench?” “I’m not looking for a bike wrench,” he answers. “Then what kind of wrench are you looking for?” “I have reports that a man on a bike in a blue hat is opening up fire hydrants with a crescent wrench.” I take my hat off and point to it. “This hat is black. I have no idea why you think I have a crescent wrench.” “Sorry” is all he says as he motors away.
10:40AM: About 10 bikes are riding around in the nearby intersection at Kearny and Market. One of the nonleaders gets a text that dispatch has told SFPD to cite bikers at our current location. We split to meet up at JHP at 11. I go my own way, hoping to cool down over a wasted “Bike Bloc” that didn’t do anything. Run into some friends which is nice. Grab some coffee at the Quaker’s “Unhappy Birthday” pit stop. They have a cake that is a bar graph symbolizing all the death that’s happened in Iraq in 5 years. The big bottom layer is for the Iraqis, the small upper layer for the soldiers.
11:00AM: Show up to JHP. A larger crowd is gathered for the 11 meet up. The two nonleaders are there again, so I approach them to ask what the tactic is for the Bike Brigade. They inform me that we’ll ride to support other actions. “Oh. I thought we were going to do our own thing.” “We might do a little bit of riding on the way,” one of the nonleaders tells me. We get the same orientation again, except this time we’re riding straight to Powell and Market to hook up with the City Lights’s Words Against War action. We wait a while for some flags to show up. They’re stenciled! I grab a flag for my bike. It says “5 years too long” We also get green strips of fabric that say “ENDWAR” on them in a stencil. I tie mine around my head. Is it me, or have the flags magically radicalized the bike ride?
11:40AM: We hit the City LIghts action and low and behold we break a traffic law. The nonleaders clearly stated that we weren’t going to break any laws, so I’m glad that we actually do! We hit Words Against War and there is no where for the 50 of us to stop and listen. So we ride around the intersection. The cops get antsy, so I pull off onto the sidewalk to watch in amazement as the harmless nonleaders take the Bike Bloc up a notch. The SFPD steps in quickly to clear the intersection of bikes.
11:50AM: The bikes have nowhere to go, so they go the wrong way up O’Farrell and then the wrong way down Grant to get back on Market. At this point, I walk my bike due to snarled car traffic and too dangerous conditions. The ride masses up at Market and so does the SFPD. We hit Market and Fourth and ride around in circles. The police presence gets much bigger as we snarl traffic. I stop at the south side of the intersection, hoping that the nonleaders will take the ride down towards the freeway. Five years ago, about 100 of us snarled freeway exits/entrances when the CHP would block off any ramps we rode by. I am once again the black sheep: they keep riding down Market Street.
12:10PM: I lose the ride due to a convoy of about 5 SFPD vans and various cop apparatus. When I catch up at Market and 5th, the ride has evaporated. The SFPD rule the intersection and jumped into the circle riding to break it up. The SFPD grabbed bikes and pushed bikes over to get them off the street. My bike civil disobedience dies in a puff of smoke. Laura calls, so we plan to meet up at Powell St.
12:20PM: While I’m hanging out, a middle-aged man in nice clothes comes over to me and starts talking about the protests. “Don’t you think it’s more organized this year?” “About the same,” I answer. “You from SF?” “Yes.” He starts complaining about Code Pink being annoying and I ask him “Are you intimidated by powerful women wearing pink?” He laughs, and then admits he’s a reporter. It’s CW Nevius, a hack who writes a column for the SF Chronicle. “I read your column. You write negative pieces about people who complain about things.” He admits that his work has caused a few protesters to not speak to him today.
Laura shows up and CW Nevius introduces himself as Chuck. “Do you live in SF?” he asks Laura. She gives him a great quote about the protest, and he excitedly wants to write it down. Laura repeats it to him. “You realize that this is CW Nevius with the Chronicle, don’t you?” I ask Laura. He just wrote a trashy piece about Laura’s old work place. It has two residents who complain about the drug use in the building. “You know there’s more than one side of a story,” she tells him. We give him our names, and he gives us his cards. I doubt I’ll be in his piece because I pop his bubble on the fact that DASW was very organized five years ago too. He seemed disappointed, thinking that the 2003 craziness was a fluke.
Laura and I hang out with a Veterans for Peace protest at Powell St. A random guy decides to tell us all we’re full of shit.
1:20PM: Act Against Torture has sat down in the intersection of Market and Montgomery. Some of the people are wearing orange jumpsuits with black hoods and are chained together. A line of SFPD stands over them. What an amazing direct action spectacle: cops standing over Gitmo detainees in downtown SF. One cop is pissed that he’s standing there having to deal with the protestors. He shakes his head in disgust or disbelief. The SFPD starts arresting the non-Gitmo people first. An elderly nun is the second person to get taken away. The police are taking an incredibly long amount of time arresting these people. I go to the Galleria Mall to hit the toilet, try to go out on their terrace (closed by the SFPD), and then go back down to the same situation. Before I leave to see what else is up, a clean-cut many walks by with a secret service ear plug in. Wonder if that was Homeland Security.
3:00PM: The direct action is over for the day, but while walking to Poncho Villa’s on Embarcadero with friends, a group of people approach us to protest something. David Solnit gives them the map of war profiteers and they excitedly go off to create a ruckus. At Poncho Villa’s, I see a bird hanging out over the kitchen so decide not eat there. I find out that over 130 people have been arrested today. The first action was a lock down at the Federal Reserve. All the early arrestees are out.
5:00PM: Tired. Make it to Civic Center where the ANSWER rally is starting. What a difference: people vend wares, socialist and communists hawk papers, lefist talking heads stand on stage and say the same thing over and over. I don’t understand why they’re not into direct action. They talk revolution but host permitted rallies and marches instead of sitting their asses down in the streets. Anyway, I check out the scene (so many TV news vans on site) and rest up while Luara, Jonathan, and Kate eventually meet up and chat. The sun goes away and the cold comes back again. Fog rolls in too. A bird decides to shit on me. The march starts and is heading into the Mission (home). Laura and I walk together.
A whole new batch of bike riders are at this march and try to corral Laura and I to walk with them. We instantly lose them and find them later on Valencia St. “We’re going to get in front of the march and then break out in a Critical Mass…. we’re doing it right now.” Laura and I are too tired, but I’m glad to know that the nonleaders have nothing to do with their actions. Laura and I get stuck with communists in bull horns on and off. We enjoy the signs and stickers (badminton, not bombs; use your words, not wars; the economy is in the toilet b/c of the war) until she peels home from 20th and Mission. I follow the march to 24th BART where there’s more lefist talking heads. Run into friends and then meet Antonio for an update on StencilNation.org. It’s looking good!
Long day. Off to bed now…………