On March 18, 2006, activist groups around the world held protests to mark the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. San Francisco was no exception: the communist anti-war group ANSWER planned to stage a large rally and march through the city, in opposition to the war and other American policies.

The problem is, other groups also planned additional anti-war and anti-authoritarian events in San Francisco (and nearby) on March 18. And all the events were conflicting with each other. Something obviously had gone terribly awry in the progressive community. In the weeks leading up to the big day, the different factions began bickering with each other.

The most glaring scheduling snafu involved the Anarchist Bookfair, which was being held on the other side of San Francisco from the ANSWER march, but on the same day at the exact same time. Seeing as the anarchist event and the anti-war event both drew on the same pool of potential attendees, accusations began to fly that each event was going to hurt attendance at the rival event.

Arguments broke out in public forums (such as this thread on the Indybay progressive site) over which side was to blame. The anarchists accused ANSWER of being Stalinists who use bullying tactics (which is true), while ANSWER accused the anarchists of being disorganized poseurs with no clue how to start a real revolution (which is also true). (The squabbling continued even after the events were over.)

Meanwhile, a larger (and perhaps more significant) rift occurred between ANSWER and United For Peace and Justice. UFPJ, the other major anti-war organizing group, very publicly announced its intention to stop cooperating with ANSWER because of ANSWER's extremist stance.

As a result, independent and rival leftist organizations sponsored their own rallies in various cities in the San Francisco Bay Area -- events which were intentionally promoted to be more laidback and palatable to suburbanites.

So, when March 18 finally arrived, there was no one single big rally to unify everyone who was against the war and/or against the government. Inevitably, this fracturing of the movement caused all the various events to attract substantially lower attendance than in previous years, even when the number of attendees at all the March 18 events were added together. According to reasonable estimates, no more than 10,000 people showed up at the main ANSWER rally (a total that seems about right, according to my personal observation). The Anarchist Bookfair drew a few thousand throughout the day. And most of the suburban rallies drew a few hundred each, though a couple may have been in the low thousands.

There was no way one person could cover all the rallies, so I attended both San Francisco events.

This first photo essay covers the ANSWER "Global Day of Action" rally that started at San Francisco's Civic Center around noon. At the bottom of this page you will find a link to my report on the Anarchist Bookfair, which I visited later in the afternoon.

This protester has all bases covered: a Bush/Hitler comparison, a "We Are All Palestinians" shirt, a shamrock earring and green beret for St. Patrick's day, and some Free Trade coffee.

These banners pretty much summed up the whole rally. Everything you need to know about the messages of March 18 can be seen here.

The Soviet flag was proudly displayed at various points around Civic Center Plaza. ANSWER is not ashamed of its Stalinist sympathies.

Dog-eared propaganda pamphlets -- obviously left over from the '70s -- glorified the Soviet Union.

Nearby, the Communist Workers booth had a nice selection of Marxist, Stalinist and X-ist screeds.

People were not afraid to reveal their true feelings about the United States military. At anti-war rallies, deserters are considered heroes.

If there's one thing everyone agreed on, it's that capitalism is Enemy #1.

The is the first time I've ever seen a quote from the Qur'an on a protest sign -- which was especially odd, considering that the person holding it was not a Muslim (I asked him). Apparently the time has come that the Left now uses Islamic religious justifications for their political positions -- to counter what they perceive as Christian religious justifications used by conservatives. Have politics begun to merge with religion? Is a political jihad/crusade in the offing?

"Moscow Hockey League 1962" says this guy's Soviet-chic XXL t-shirt, along with a de rigeuer "Arab sympathizer" sticker.

But the media, predictably, steered clear of anyone who wasn't camera-friendly for a mainstream audience; this NBC camera crew, for example, purposely plucked out of the crowd a nice young woman with a tight shirt who looked like she might say something to make the event appear palatable.

This girl would have been their preferred choice, but she blew her chance for camera time with an overly blunt t-shirt selection.


The more vitriolic the message, the more smug the smile.

The Israel-bashing was particularly hyperbolic at the rally, even though it was supposed to be focused on the Iraq War. In fact, it is specifically because ANSWER encourages participants to drag their own pet poltical projects to every rally that the rival anti-war groups have disowned the ANSWER events.

I have yet to encounter an historical outrage that Bush wasn't responsible for.

No joke: ANSWER supplied "Psych volunteers" as counselors for anyone driven over the edge by Bush-hatred.

And who could blame them? Bush's Satanic omnipotent presence loomed over everything.

Only magical Che capes could protect you from Bush's powers.

Here's a classic. This guy's sign says he supports the "Iraqi resistance," accompanied by his scantily-clad girlfriend who's the exact embodiment of everything that "resistance" (composed mostly of Islamic fundamentalists) would most like to stamp out.

In fact, there was an entire contingent of people sporting "I support the Iraqi resistance" signs. Here are couple more of them, along with the notorious "Smash the Jewish State" anti-Semite who haunts almost every rally in the Bay Area.

They're free, except you gotta donate "1$". You know you've fallen on hard times as "the world's leading intellectual" when they can't even give away your lectures.

As the day dragged on, the seniors sought a place to sit down.

This woman dressed up in a Condoleezza Rice mask and a pink feather boa, and danced the shimmy to the music of the Raging Grannies.

The counter-protesters -- made up of contingents from the Protest Warriors and San Francisco Voice for Israel, as well as independents -- were forced to stand across the street. A line of policemen created a demilitarized zone separating the opposing ideological camps.

Here's the front of the march, with the ANSWER contingent holding banners and flags. You may notice that, although this was a rally commemorating the third anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War, there were a lot of Palestinian flags on display, and kaffiyehs, and references to Palestine. In fact, this issue seems to have completely consumed the anti-war movement, and if you wandered into the event not knowing what it was about, you might easily have thought it was an anti-Israel event.

People waved Palestinian flags.

And they voiced their opinions on the ultimate fate of Israel.
Click here to see a movie (QuickTime mpeg video, 1.7mb) of protesters chanting:

"From the river to the sea,
Palestine will be free!
From the river to the sea,
Palestine will be free!
From the river to the sea,
Palestine will be free!
From the river to the sea,
Palestine will be free!
From the river to the sea,
Palestine will be free!
From the river to the sea,
Palestine will be free!
From the river to the sea,
Palestine will be free!
From the river to the sea,
Palestine will be free! "

And visualized a socialist solution for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

And wore kaffiyehs as shawls.

And wore them as masks, too.

Just as during the anti-war protests in the '60s, there is an ulterior motive for young guys to dress up in the latest radical costumes and chant slogans. It's a good way to hook up with girls. By chance I happened to catch the blooming of a young romance from its initial stirrings to the moment of "first love." Below you will see the story of a radical young dude being attracted to and then getting the attentions of a Palestinian mademoiselle.

"Hey, check out the HamASS on that chick! I'd like to occupy her territory."

"Hmmm, I've got to come up with a plan. Time to make my move."

"Hey baby, I like your style. Maybe later we can go back to my place and do the Gaza Strip."

"Oh, Josh, you are so funny! And I bet you're cute behind that mask!"

With all the pheromones in the air, the kaffiyeh concession was doing a land-office business to wannabe radical Romeos.

Phalanxes of Palestinian youths wore terrorist-style kaffiyeh-masks and hoisted Palestinian flags.

They chanted slogans in Arabic to an appreciative crowd.

Click here to see a movie (QuickTime mpeg video, .6mb) of Palestinian protesters jumping up and down and chanting.

In a misguided attempt to show his solidarity with the revolutionary Palestinian cause, this moronic American protester used a kaffiyeh to fashion a headdress that made him look like a Saudi oil sheik.

While this adolescent went for the Matrix look as he marched with the Palestinian contingent.

The International Solidarity Movement was on hand to recruit American "volunteers" willing to help radical anti-Israel groups in Palestine.

But the ISM weren't the only pro-Intifada group at the rally. Click here to see a movie (QuickTime mpeg video, 1.4mb) of protesters chanting:

"Long live Palestine!
Long live the Intifada!
Long live the Intifada!
Intifada Intifada!
Intifada Intifada!
Free free Palestine!
Free free Palestine!
Long live Palestine!
Long live Palestine!
Long live the Intifada!
Long live the Intifada!
Intifada Intifada!
Intifada Intifada!"

Fidel Castro is a particular favorite of the Socialist Workers Party.

A clothing vendor was selling a variety of pro-Palestinian and anti-American garb, indling this sad-eyed-terrorist bookbag.

The nostalgia booth had antique shirts from the 2004 Republican Convention in "New Reich." Real collectors' items!

This interesting placard showed a dozen "neo-con" celebrities all sporting Hitler mustaches, along with the catchphrase, "Conservative my ass! These people are Nazis!"

If she's going to accuse Americans of genocide against her rather stunted list of victim groups, why depersonalize it by saying the "flag" is responsible?

A serious case of Wishful Thinking.

Hey, wait a minute -- this guy might be on to something!

Could you be any less original?

As the march slowly disintegrated on its way back to the Civic Center for another round of revolutionary speechifying, I bailed out and headed across town to the other radical event in San Francisco that day, the annual Anarchist Bookfair.

Click here to see the Anarchist Bookfair 2006, in Part 2 of this report.

More photos of the "Global Day of Action" rally on other sites:
W.C. Varones blog
San Francisco Chronicle

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