By Daniel Borgström, guest contributor.
July 26, 2014
Last Sunday, a Free Palestine rally gathered at the Justin Herman Plaza, near the Ferry Building in San Francisco. I got there as it was beginning, shortly after 3 p.m. The crowd already appeared to number a thousand, and more were arriving. People kept streaming in. By 4:15 p.m. when the march began, the plaza was brim full. So how many people does it take to fill that plaza? I wondered. Thousands, obviously — but how many thousands?
After the march I looked online for estimates from various other events at the plaza and found an article about the fundamentalist anti-abortion march of 2011. “Tens of thousands of pro-life activists filled Justin Herman Plaza,” the organizers of the rightwing event reported; the corporate media echoed the fundamentalists’ claim. In contrast, reporting on the Sunday Free Palestine rally, KTVU News, reported: “Hundreds gather in San Francisco to protest Israeli military action in Gaza.” The SF Examiner gave the same figure.
Such reports simply confirm what many people have been saying and observing for decades about media bias. A rightwing event fills the J.H. Plaza with tens of thousands, but when a progressive event draws a crowd large enough to fill that same plaza, it’s only “hundreds” of people there.
Nevertheless, that plaza is also used for miscellaneous non-political gatherings and events that nobody would be likely to misreport. I continued my online search and found a website belonging to the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department, which states: “This location can accommodate up to 7,000 people.”
Seven thousand? That sounds about right. During the march I had conservatively estimated 5,000 while others around me were saying it was more. Some who studied videos of the march afterwards, taking sample counts and doing some math estimated six to seven thousand at the Sunday event. The organizers of this event, the Arab Resource & Organizing Center, estimated 6,000.
I’ve never before seen a Free Palestine event anywhere nearly this large. I remember attending protests at the Israeli consulate on Montgomery Street where there were about 500 people, and at the time that seemed large. This Sunday rally and march was at least ten times larger. Clearly, Zionist attacks on Gaza have outraged a growing number of people. Unfortunately, none of this gets reflected by the U.S. Congress. Just the other day all 100 U.S. Senators unanimously passed a resolution in support of Israel’s assault on Gaza. Not even Senator Bernie Sanders stood up to the Zionists.
There will be another rally today at the same plaza, starting at 1 p.m. Perhaps our demand should be: “End Zionist occupation of Washington!”
Daniel Borgstrom is a retired land surveyor and veteran living in Berkeley. He is active with East Bay Veterans for Peace and United for Community Radio. This analysis first appeared on his blog, Daniel’s Free Speech Zone.