Jewish World Review March 26, 2003 / 24 Adar II, 5763
Debra J. Saunders
It's rather choice that the anti-war group Direct
Action to Stop the War is complaining about
"increased repression from the San Francisco Police
Their so-called peace demonstrations certainly were
designed to repress -- that is, "subdue" or "restrain,"
according to my dictionary -- people in San
Francisco. Activists boasted they wanted to close
the Financial District to end "business as usual." So
they sabotaged public transit and blocked
intersections to gridlock city traffic.
Protesters vomited in front of the Federal Building.
They scared off customers who would have spent
money in city stores. While they claim to care about
the poor and infirm, they've sucked some $900,000
daily from a city that is facing its worst deficit ever.
They've taunted police. They've resisted arrest.
They've announced they want to practice civil
disobedience. Then they complain when they are
"Civil disobedience, you expect to get arrested,"
noted Mayor Willie Brown's spokesman P.J.
Johnston. Actually, most protesters were cited, then
released. They generally had to be arrested twice to
be held on Thursday.
Anti-war dissidents have every right to protest the
war. But activists who block streets, shut down
public transit and block access to buildings are
breaking the law -- as well as trampling on other
Long-time anti-war activist David Harris wants nothing
to do with these stunts. "This is political narcissism.
OK, you're against the war. That doesn't give you the
right to take it out on the city of San Francisco," said
Bill Hackwell, a spokesman for the peacenik
International Answer, dismissed Da Mayor's
complaints about the high cost of the protests to the
city. Hackwell told The Chronicle that San Francisco
should send the bill "directly to the White House."
Translation: Let them eat cake.
It's more important for peaceniks to have their little
tantrum than for the city to have money to serve the
"It is one of the painful ironies of this war that one of
the most anti-war cities in the nation, San Francisco,
is being disproportionately harmed by the tactics of
anti-war protesters," Da Mayor complained in a
statement last week. Brown has urged out-of-towners
to demonstrate in their own hometowns.
But if activists are foolish enough to believe their
demonstration helps their cause -- instead of
alienating the public -- they at least are smart enough
to protest where they are most likely to get away
with breaking the law.
Enter District Attorney Terence Hallinan -- or Fluffy,
as the peace movement should call him.
Do you think Hallinan will prosecute the people the
SFPD arrests? I asked one officer on Fifth Street.
No, he answered, without hesitating.
Last week, anti-war groups began writing Hallinan
asking for amnesty for the 1,300 protesters arrested
at the time. "We demand: Free all protesters now.
Drop all the charges," wrote the Partisan Defense
Committee's Kathy Ikegami.
The D.A.'s office has pledged to prosecute violent
protesters to the full extent possible. "The ones we're
trying to figure out how we can best handle," Hallinan
told me Monday, "are the ones that are straight
nonviolent civil disobedience. How do you have those
people repay the city without costing the city more
money than we get?"
It's true. Prosecuting lawbreakers costs money. So
does not prosecuting, as it only encourages more
lawlessness. It sends a message that in the Special
City, civil disobedience means never having to say,
"Guilty, your honor."
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate