by Toby Blome, CODEPINK Organizer
Longtime San Francisco CODEPINKer Susan Witka joined me on Monday night for the city's traditional Day of the Dead procession in the Mission District, to carry coffins to memorialize the victims of recent U.S. "Wars" - declared or otherwise. We didn't have seven pairs of hands for seven coffins, so 3 countries subjected to US killer drone strikes were not represented (Pakistan, Libya and Somalia). CODEPINK took the rear of the Day of the Dead procession, escorted most of the way by a SFPD patrol car.
The disturbing thing was that numerous police officers on foot, and those with loud speakers within the cars, gave continuous verbal commands to the hundreds gathered (even those in elaborate costumes) to "Get out of the street and onto the sidewalk."
This was very puzzling for most of the crowd since the event historically calls for all to join the procession in the street to honor and celebrate our ancestors, in a festive spirit. We CODEPINKers chose to maintain a very slow and somber walking pace to match the tragic reality of hundreds of thousands of lost lives that could have been prevented. This eventually led to the patrol car giving a steady and intermittent loud and obnoxious buzzing sound, to discourage us from participating. This went on for what seemed like an eternity. In honor of all those lost lives that matter, we would not be moved. Eventually the officer gave up.
The most moving thing about the experience was the overwhelmingly warm and supportive responses that we received from the vast majority of the crowd. Hundreds of folks took photographs of us, and many many people thanked us in words and/or gestures for our effort. Several noted and asked about the missing: "Where is Pakistan?" "Where is Somalia?" "Do you have Palestine?"
When we arrived at Garfield Park we spotted a large tree that would be a perfect place to set up our altar. After doing so, we were quite surprised to find on the other side of the tree a bloody shroud lying over a "body," with GAZA written over it. We had intuitively found our "sister altar" set up by local peace activist, Jim Haber.
For more on our Ground the Drones campaign, and how you can participate or support, please see this.