With Bush signaling that war could be imminent, some anti-war groups were pressing supporters yesterday to begin civil disobedience immediately.

Shabina Khatri
Geronimo Garcia of San Francisco is hauled away by several police officers during an antiwar protest that disrupted traffic in San Francisco yesterday. (AP PHOTO)

Eight opponents of a war were arrested yesterday in Traverse City, when they tried to block an Army Reserve convoy headed to a training area. One handcuffed himself to a truck and the other seven locked arms in front of the vehicle, police said.

In San Francisco, anti-war protesters shrouded themselves in body bags yesterday in front of the British consulate, chanting “no killing civilians in our name.” Some blocked traffic in the city’s financial district. Police in riot gear cleared an intersection, and about 40 arrests were made.

San Francisco anti-war groups have laid out similar plans on a larger scale for the outbreak of war, including an effort to shut down the Pacific Stock Exchange and some high-profile commercial buildings.

“The bare bones of the plan is to basically shut down the financial district of San Francisco. The way we see it is that we basically unplug the system that creates war,” said Patrick Reinsborough, one of the organizers.

Tim Kingston, a spokesman for the San Francisco-based Global Exchange, says his anti-war group has kept away from organizing civil disobedience, though some members expect to take part on their own. He said some worry about stirring more resentment than sympathy with such disruptive tactics.

But he added, “What else are we supposed to do? Sit and say nothing … and be silent? That’s not very American.”

Having had months to focus on the buildup toward conflict with Iraq, America’s anti-war activists say they are ready to mark the first days of war with protests in dozens of cities coast to coast.

They vow to block federal buildings, military compounds and streets in a rash of peaceful civil disobedience. They say they will walk out of college classes, picket outside city halls and state capitols, and recite prayers of mourning at interfaith services.

“It is sort of an acknowledgment that we are probably not going to be able to stop the war,” said Joe Flood, who is helping to plan a student walkout from classes at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass. He said more than 1,000 people have pledged to participate.

Some plans for the first day or two of war are writ large, like paralyzing traffic with bicycles and cars and disrupting commerce in San Francisco’s financial district. Others are small, like showing a single lit candle on a website of the United Church of Christ.

Some are meant to be noisy, like a march in Portsmouth, N.H., with clanging pots and pans. Others will be quiet and solemn, like a vigil in Ann Arbor with Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers.

Many groups intend to carry out die-ins, where activists lie on the ground to symbolize war victims and to block passers-by. Some students at Swarthmore College, in Pennsylvania, intend to lower campus flags to half-staff.

However, in Columbia, S.C., activists hope to serve up satire, making fun of the government’s anti-terrorism advice to homeowners. They want to plaster a federal building with duct tape and plastic sheeting.

Gordon Clark, the national coordinator of the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, said acts of civil disobedience – with the risk of arrest – have been set up at more than 50 cities. “When you get to the point that the war actually begins, that’s a point when many … feel they have to take the strongest action they can personally take,” he said.

It was not clear how many supporters would follow through with illegal actions, faced with possible arrest. However, in Philadelphia, organizer Robert Smith said at least 50 activists, both young and middle-aged, were ready to block entrances of a federal building.

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