Mud's Peace March Photoessay,
February 16, 2003,
San Francisco, California, USA

These are my digital photos from the 2003 February 16 peace rally in San Francisco, CA. Most were taken before the march reached the Civic Center Plaza. After the march arrived, the entire Plaza was packed so closely that it was nearly impossible to move in the crowd, and, being only 5' 3", I couldn't take photos of anything not right beside me. To get my shots of the crowd, I held my camera at arm's length over my head and against a tree to steady it. I have lots more photos, but wanted to get at least a few up right away. This is my first webpage, and my first set of publicly seen photographs.

I also taped some of the speeches, and will post transcriptions here as soon as I get time. There was much beautiful and moving public oratory, and I have seen no reports of it in our newspapers or on television.

Great Spirit, the man pictured here, is an elder of the Rainbow Family, and he gave me his permission to use his image here and pass his message along. He told me that in spite of ill health he is touring the country with the protests, and will be at the Rainbow Gathering this year. He is looking for places to stay, and can be reached through Sister Moon in Fort Bragg, at the Heart of the Mouth (?I think that's right) Health Food Store. Great Spirit has been marching for many years, in the causes of civil rights, anti-Vietnam, and anti-hunger, among others. He says "Hi!" to Wavy Gravy if Wavy sees this page!

I saw this elder couple putting on their costumes, and I asked them why they were dressing this way. This man told me that he is a Korean War veteran. He had to put tracers into houses in Korea, and he saw what they did. Ever since then, he said, he has been an anarchist, and he said, "This is what I do." The woman with him said that they covered themselves because their protest was not about them personally; they were representing Death itself. They were nice people and gave me their permission to post their picture and what they said here. I admire their peaceful, creative, moving, and dignified manner of dissent.

These artists had cut humanlike figures out of whiteboard. The figures were then covered with people's names and messages. People who came by to talk to the artists, who were sitting at the bottom of the cross, could sign their own names and put messages on the figures, taking part in the work of art, and then the figures would be displayed on the cross. I put my name and a heart on one of them. The cross itself was extremely tall, and that height, and the combination of the two sacred symbols, cross and flag, gave me a feeling of awe. I interpreted the artwork to mean that humanity itself, including me as a small part of it, is being made to suffer because of misplaced patriotism. The artists were busy helping people sign, so I didn't speak with them about their own interpretation. People who were signing looked as serious and intent as they would have if they were in a church. I think the act of signing meant something important to everyone. It felt reverent, not frivolous, nor blasphemous, nor disrespectful. I noticed a great many different faith communities represented at the rally, not only in the crowd, but on stage as well. Everyone got along together. As a Humanist agnostic, I am glad to see people of different beliefs in coalition. Our human need for peace is stronger, I think, than our need to be "right" about a theological viewpoint.

There is a rise on the south side of Civic Center Plaza, and I took this shot before the march arrived from that vantage point. There were more than a thousand people there already, walking the booths, having lunch, enjoying the sunshine. The cranes on each side of the stage were there to suspend the huge banks of speakers. They wanted sound to reach all the way down Market Street, because they knew the march would be so large that the crowd couldn't fit into the Plaza.

OK, it *is* San Francisco, after all! Lots of people are creative here, and make their own signs. People who came to this march were not fooled by the disinformation and agitpropaganda that our government has been handing out to us, obviously. But most people found some humorous way of expressing their dissent. These folks posed for me on the north side of the Plaza.

He's a poet, not a slick graphic artist, but I like the interesting symbols in his text. He was wearing a beautiful green cape.

This dove puppet made me laugh. I thought its expression was bemused. Now it looks (to me, anyway) as if it is lunching on the olive branch rather than carrying it! But I loved this puppet, and the other three or four dove puppets in the parade. They looked beautiful in motion, with their wings stretched out in the wind.

This fellow had his sign stuck down his back. I thought the wording was clever, and complimented him, but he said that he had just picked it up at the table. *Somebody* was clever, anyway. Some at the march were solemn, some were as cheerful as he was.

My niece in San Jose (hi, Chaos!), and my nephew and niece in Toronto (hi, Cab! hi, Louise!), attended their first ever marches on February 15 and 16. They have taken part in an important moment in history. Who knows what the many children in attendance will remember of this San Francisco march? The little fellow in the yellow jacket was fascinated by the three drummers, who set up on the south sidewalk and were jamming with the acts on stage. Mo, the drummer whose drum he's listening to, was careful *not* to hit that drum while he had his ear to it! Behind the drummers is the word "peace", spelled out in flowers. The city of San Francisco is one of those whose city council has passed a resolution condemning the Iraq war, as well as one calling the Patriot Act unpatriotic. This is reflected in its public greenery.

Someone near us, up close to the stage, left their sign behind when they had to go home. I noticed it, and took a picture of it. Then a man asked me if it was mine, and I said no, would you like it? And he said yes, and reclaimed it. It is one of the late great guitarist Jimi Hendrix's most beautiful quotations. I noticed, on this sign and many others, a lot of duct tape was used on the back to hold it to its pole, and some signs were covered with plastic. So the sales of duct tape and plastic reported so widely in the press may *not* have had as much to do with the Orange Alert as people thought.

I felt proud to be a part of this crowd of people. Look at their wonderful faces! Every culture, every age, every class of people was represented at this march of over 300,000. This photo was taken while the North African rap group MC Rhino (spelling?) was singing John Lennon's song, "Imagine," in both Arabic and English. People were holding up their hands in the peace sign, and singing, and dancing in place. "You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one..." I wasn't the only one with tears in my eyes, either. This is the best of what my country has to offer; grassroots democracy, and people who care.