Two Reports on San Francisco Antiwar March, Jan. 18

“It was the people themselves, convinced that a great injustice was in the works”

by Charles Walker

They came and they came and still they came, marching on, converging on, descending on San Francisco’s Civic Center. No one who was there can really say how many antiwar demonstrators turned out, densely packing San Francisco’s main drag, blocking side streets, overrunning sidewalks. Surely too many to fit inside the open-air pedestrian mall that flanks the city’s massive library, its civic auditorium, and federal and state buildings, and that abuts the golden-domed city hall. Saturday’s antiwar mobilization was about people, lots and lots and, yes, lots more people, easily dwarfing last October’s antiwar turnout in the same location.

I first became aware of the enormous numbers making their way to San Francisco when I failed to find a parking space at an outlying subway station, normally near-empty on a weekend day. Inside the station, marchers waited in long lines to get tickets, something I haven’t seen, even on a workday. On the ten-car train, folks with signs and T-shirts, spelling out their worries and concerns about war in the Middle East, stuffed the aisles.

As they poured out of the subway exits, hundreds of others who had completed the march were already lining the opposite platforms, returning home. Perhaps that was not such a bad idea, for the rally site couldn’t begin to hold all the protesters. Those who were there could barely move; organizations’ tables and stands were virtually cut off from the mass, except for those nearby who found themselves locked in, held all but immobile by everyone else.

The usual expressions—“wall-to-wall people,” “vast hordes,” “sea of humanity”—fail to do justice to the turnout. Surprisingly, the area’s major press and television stations for a couple of days carried stories about the expected tens of thousands of rally-goers. “May outnumber the huge numbers that protested the Vietnam War, some thirty years ago,” the media said. But it wasn’t the media attention that packed the mall, nor was it the antiwar groups that strained to achieve a massive turnout. It was the people themselves, convinced that a great injustice was in the works. That’s what did the trick. It was folks just looking for a time and a place to voice their declaration, “Not in my name!”

Two and a half hours after the rally was to begin, the last of the throng was still three blocks away, heading for the carnival of heartfelt protest, many, no doubt, for the first time.

A March and Rally of 400,000 or More

by Roland Sheppard

This was a huge demonstration. Public transit trains, buses, and trolleys were jammed from the beginning with people heading for the starting place of the march. People who could not get on public transportation were marching down Market Street in a vain attempt to get to the beginning of the march.

The march filled all lanes and the sidewalks of Market Street. After one and a half hours the Civic Center rallying point was jammed to capacity as marchers kept coming while other demonstrators were leaving. All over the five-square-block area surrounding the Civic Center the sidewalks were crammed with demonstrators!

Some friends of mine never made it to the rally because it was so crowded. (One friend marched for three hours and decided to go home—never getting to the rally.)

Attached is a photo of the start of the march (at Market St. and Embarcadero). This is also how the march looked to me 9 blocks later, at 16th and Market, at 12 noon. An hour and a half later it was still just as massive, looking down Market from 9th St. (The march went right on 7th St.)