[Editor: This is an update of an article we ran earlier today.]
3:59 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — Protesters briefly clashed with San Francisco police several times today as officers tried to clear Market Street of hundreds of demonstrators marking the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war.
143 people had been arrested by mid-afternoon in incidents at several downtown locations.
One scuffle took place after about two dozen demonstrators staged a “die-in” in the intersection of Market and New Montgomery streets about 12:15 p.m. and were surrounded by 80 police officers in riot gear. After more than two hours of protests – and about 100 arrests – authorities finally cleared the intersection and reopened Market Street to traffic at 2:30 p.m.
Among the arrested were three demonstrators who wrestled with police. Additionally, one officer was knocked to the street.
As protesters were arrested, more demonstrators from the scores who were watching from the sidewalk rushed to fill their place. Among those taken away were 20 people, calling themselves Act Against Torture, who were wearing orange jumpsuits with black hoods over their heads.
“We’re here to get arrested,” said Leslie Mullin, 63. “The people have to step into this war because none of the government officials want to do it for us. We’ve gone all over town and people are saying, ‘Good for you.’ ”
Left-wing activist Daniel Ellsberg told the crowd, “The symbolism of people lying in death appears to symbolize the life and death seriousness as we enter the sixth year of this crime against the American people.” He soon sat down in the street and was himself arrested.
By 3 p.m., the protests appeared to be dissipating as demonstrators took a break before a scheduled 5 p.m. march from Civic Center to the Mission District.
No injuries were reported in the protests, which began around 8 a.m. when a crowd of about 500 people began snaking its way through the Financial District, periodically prompting police to shut down intersections and city blocks and Muni officials to reroute buses.
At least 27 people were arrested at a die-in at Market and Third streets around 10:30 a.m. As officers encircled the group, they briefly pushed other protesters onto the sidewalk and confiscated at least one bicycle and a sign.
Elsewhere, more than a dozen people were arrested in nonviolent actions at the Federal Reserve Bank on Market and the Chevron building at California and Battery streets.
The main group of protesters carried signs, shouted slogans and blasted music as they roamed the Financial District. Some threw play money in the air and waved pink flags.
“Was it worth it?” read one large sign carried by four people.
Many protesters wore costumes or face paint. Ashley Gregory, a San Francisco resident, used marker to paint blue tears on her face.
“It’s scary how normal the war has become,” Gregory said. “I think we’ve consented to the war, and this is my way to show my discontent.”
A man who would identify himself only as Mike said he had paid $100 for the gorilla suit he donned this morning.
“It’s a small price to pay,” he said. “Sometimes when things are blackest and really depressing, it’s important to have a little laughter.”
Across the bay in Berkeley, about 100 demonstrators gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park at noon to hear peace activist Cindy Sheehan speak. About 80 people marched afterward to the Marine Corps recruiting station on Shattuck Square, where demonstrators had gathered earlier.
After a short rally at the recruiting station – which has been the focus of a weeks-long protest mounted by the anti-war group Code Pink – a group of about 15 marched to the UC Berkeley campus and around the city. A half dozen or so counterprotesters trailed along.