BERKELEY, Calif. - It was shortly after 5 Friday afternoon when someone taped a peace sign on the side of the Bay Area Rapid Transit station and the singing began.
As longtime activist Betsy Rose strummed her guitar, a handful of anti-war demonstrators sang, I'm gonna side with Barbara Lee/ down by the riverside/ down by the riverside./ I'm gonna side with Barbara Lee. ...
Lee, a Democratic congresswoman whose East Bay District includes Berkeley, was the only member of the House or Senate who voted against a measure authorizing President Bush's war on terrorism. Her vote earned her the scorn of conservative talk-radio hosts across the nation, but here in the People's Republic of Berkeley, she is a hero.
Sparked by Bush's vow to use "every necessary weapon of war" to fight terrorism, a broad coalition of San Francisco Bay Area activists has begun mobilizing to oppose military action by the United States in response to the dual attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center by Islamic militants that claimed more than 6,000 lives Sept. 11.
Friday's rally in downtown Berkeley drew about 100 people, many of whom can trace their anti-war activism to the 1960s. These activists are quick to point out that the protests against the war in Vietnam started out small and mushroomed. They think drawing 100 people to a peace rally when the United States has not dropped a single bomb is no small feat.
An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 protesters turned out yesterday for a rally in San Francisco. The demonstration was organized by the International Action Center, an anti-war group founded in 1991 by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
Shortly after the attacks, the IAC began pulling together a diverse collection of advocacy groups to take part in the demonstration here and others planned for yesterday in Washington and Los Angeles.
Foreign policy pummeled
Bush and the military-industrial complex took a pounding during yesterday's rally. Miguel Molina, host of a show on KPFA, a Berkeley radio station, was one of many speakers who incited the crowd with denunciations of U.S. foreign policy and the war on terrorism. KPFA, which was founded by draft resisters in 1946, has provided momentum for the Bay area's budding anti-war movement.
"The purpose of this rally was to let the nation know that here in California, we are going to resist any attempts by this government to initiate a racist war against another Third World country," said Molina, who was dressed in revolution chic - a black Che Guevara hat, a red headband, sunglasses and a brown khaki shirt.
There are signs that anti-war fervor is growing on the nation's college campuses, especially here in the San Francisco Bay area. On Sept. 20, thousands of students took part in demonstrations at the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, Santa Clara University, San Francisco State University, San Francisco City College and Mills College.
The rally at UC Berkeley drew an estimated 3,000 protesters and some counter-protesters. It was one of more than 100 rallies planned that day in 30 states.
Bush's tough rhetoric, punctuated by his call for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden to be brought in "dead or alive," played well in mainstream America, but bombed in this counter-culture hotbed.
Unlike much of the nation, Berkeley did not wrap itself in the flag. Fire officials banned large American flags from firetrucks so Old Glory would not incite anti-war demonstrations.
The marchers in Berkeley were also animated by incidents of racial hatred that sprang from the attacks. In the succeeding days, Muslims of any ethnic background, Afghans, Arabs and Sikhs were singled out for verbal abuse and physical violence. In San Gabriel, Calif., an Egyptian Christian grocer was killed; a Sikh was shot to death in Mesa, Ariz.; and a Pakistani Muslim was killed in Dallas.
One of the marchers Friday was Ann Fagan Ginger, 76, a veteran of countless marches spanning a half-century whose activism springs from her socialist beliefs.
"There is nothing in the Constitution that would have to change if the economic system changed to socialism," she said. "What's going to happen in my life and my children's lives depends on how the governmental system organizes or regulates the economic system, not the reverse."
During Friday's demonstration in Berkeley, Ginger waved the United Nations flag.
She maintains that Bush should seek the United Nations' help to catch the culprits and put them on trial rather than strutting down the path of war.
U.N. council backs Bush
"For him to say somebody should be brought in dead or alive shows that he has no concept of the oath he took to support the laws of the United States, which includes the treaty with the U.N. Charter," she said. "Dead or alive, that's something a terrorist would say; it's not a civilized concept."