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March 15, 2003-San Francisco Peace Rally
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Selected portions of original article reprinted here.
Original content from the San Francisco Chronicle. 
Thousands protest war as hope for peace fades
Somber mood at nonviolent march in S.F.

Sunday, March 16, 2003
Joe Garofoli, Julian Guthrie, Katherine Seligman, Chronicle Staff Writers
With a somber, almost resigned tone as the nation edges closer to war with Iraq, tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators marched through San Francisco on Saturday in what could be the last big peace rally before a U.S. attack.

The city's fourth large-scale demonstration in five months coincided with similar events in Washington, D.C., and around the globe and came one day before President Bush and the leaders of Britain and Spain were to meet in the Azores islands to discuss what the White House called "diplomatic options."

The main demonstration was peaceful, but as has occurred at past rallies, a black-clad, anarchist-led group marched from Jefferson Square in the Western Addition to Ninth and Mission streets and through downtown. Police arrested 157 people, most for blocking traffic near Fourth and Market streets, and detained about 65 more.

But the splinter group's antics were out of step with the vast majority of demonstrators, many of whom were committed to peaceful tactics. Dozens of protesters attended nonviolent civil disobedience training classes in Jefferson Square, where speakers urged them to walk out of work at the outbreak of war.

"I would expect people to pour into the streets if bombs start dropping," Colette Mercier said as she coached activists on civil disobedience tactics.

Organizers say the anti-war movement is evolving from "protest to resistance" as hope dims for a peaceful resolution in Iraq.

"It seems this war was a foregone conclusion a year ago," actor and activist Martin Sheen told the crowd gathered at Jefferson Square under sunny skies that defied stormy forecasts.

Before he took the stage, the devoutly Christian star of the award-winning TV drama "West Wing" told The Chronicle, "At this point, there is only one thing we can do: Fall on our knees and pray. We need help from a higher power."

Police declined to estimate the size of the crowd, but organizers placed it at 100,000. A Chronicle reporter estimated that 40,000 marchers passed Octavia and Hayes streets in about two hours. Taking into account other marchers who joined the protest at different times and locations, the total for the day could range from 48,000 to 60,000 people.

While the protesters offered an array of arguments against attacking Iraq, one clear sentiment emerged: Peace activists are frustrated that their own government seems to have tuned them out.

Actor Martin Sheen joined the tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators marching through San Francisco on Saturday.

Chronicle photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

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