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44 Arrested at S.F. War Protest

Demonstration at Federal Building Over Congressional Votes
Federal police and security guards hold down a protester outside the federal building. Chronicle photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez

44 Arrested at S.F. War Protest
Demonstration at Federal Building Over Congressional Votes

Scores of anti-war protesters waved signs and chanted slogans as they surrounded San Francisco's federal building Friday to denounce Congress' vote authorizing President Bush to wage war against Iraq.

Federal officers arrested 44 people for blocking entrances to the building shortly before 8 a.m., preventing thousands of federal workers from getting to their jobs. Forty-two were cited for civil disobedience and released. Two protesters were arrested on felony charges of attacking an assistant U.S. attorney and a court security officer.

Nonetheless, it was a relatively peaceful protest and some people there to do business didn't mind the disruption.

Erik Babcock, a defense attorney who was trying to get into the building, said he sided with the demonstrators. "I'm with their sentiments," he said.

The protest began Thursday afternoon after both houses of Congress voted overwhelming to give Bush the go-ahead to use military force against Saddam Hussein's regime.

About 225 people marched from Montgomery and Market streets up to the federal building where about 200 protesters, armed with blankets, tents and sleeping bags, camped out overnight on the plaza in front of the building.

After Friday morning's protests, a band of about 50 demonstrators marched to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office to protest her voting for the resolution giving Bush war powers. San Francisco police detained one demonstrator.

The number of protesters was far less than the 8,000 who attended Sunday's anti-war rally at San Francisco's Union Square. But Medea Benjamin, founding director of Global Exchange, a national anti-war group based in San Francisco that helped sponsor both protests, called the turn-out for the latest one "amazing" considering it was hastily organized to coincide with the votes in Congress.

"This is starting to feel like Vietnam in terms of the level of protests," she said. "The one difference is that we're trying to stop a war" before it happens.



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