Iraq anniversary demonstrations may clog transit

Opponents of the war in Iraq will mark its fifth anniversary today in San Francisco with marches, rallies and civil disobedience — all of which are expected to disrupt traffic and public transit, according to activists and city officials.

After the United States launched its promised “shock and awe” attack on Iraq on March 19, 2003, San Francisco residents held protests citywide, engaging in what officials at the time described as cat-and-mouse games with officers. Thousands were arrested over several days of protests.

Protests today have been planned by an array of activist groups, and organizers told The Examiner that they expect a big turnout and some arrests.

“We expect it’ll be the largest action of civil disobedience in five years in San Francisco,” said Michael Reagan, an organizer with Direct Action to Stop The War.

San Francisco Police department spokesman Sgt. Steve Mannina said protests today are expected to be concentrated downtown in the morning and near the Civic Center in the afternoon.

A march and rally will begin at Civic Center at 5 p.m., according to organizers with the Bay Area ANSWER Coalition.

No protest permits have been issued, according to Mannina. He said extra officers will work today to “facilitate First Amendment activities,” “minimize street closures” and “enforce the laws if there’s any civil disobedience.”

The California Highway Patrol will assign extra officers to San Francisco and work to keep protestors off the Bay Bridge and its on- and offramps, which were targeted by protesters five years ago, according to agency spokesman Trent Cross.

Muni has warned passengers headed downtown today to use the Metro subway lines.

Lawyer Bill Simpich, an organizer with the Iraq Moratorium Group, said the group will hold a “big die-in” at a building at the corner of Fifth and Montgomery streets which houses the offices of Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

A peace vigil is also scheduled for Grace Cathedral at 6 p.m.

jupton@examiner.com

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