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Thousands of anti-war protesters clogged the streets of downtown San Francisco Thursday, and while police made arrests, courts braced for a flood of new cases. By mid-afternoon, 650 to 700 people had been arrested. Most were released with a citation, but nearly 100 were held in custody, law enforcement officials said. The number of people being held overnight because of felony or battery charges or because they refused to give their identities was expected to grow by the end of the day, officials said. Those held are likely to appear in court this afternoon during a mass arraignment, said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. Adachi joined the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union in calling upon local lawyers to donate their services to defend protesters charged with more serious violations. The groups had been meeting with anti-war protesters for about a month in anticipation of war, Adachi said. “I don’t think anyone envisioned the number of arrests,” Adachi said. “There’s a call out to all lawyers to step up to the plate and assist in representation of these cases.” It’s not the first time this year prosecutors have faced an onslaught of anti-war arrests. Mark MacNamara, a spokesman for the San Francisco district attorney’s office, said prosecutors had to sift through 45 arrests following an event on Feb. 16. All but seven of the cases where dismissed, he said. Handling protesters is nothing new for San Francisco Superior Court. It has a standing policy for dealing with huge spikes in arrests, said Presiding Judge Donna Hitchens. “We have a procedure in place with the courts and the police department,” Hitchens said. “Our agreement with them is [that] people are cited to appear in court on staggered days, so everyone doesn’t all come in at once.” Law enforcement agencies that guard county and federal courthouses went on full alert late Wednesday after word that U.S. troops had begun their assault on Iraq. They were braced for possible terrorist acts in retaliation for the war, but they were also ready to respond to anti-war protest groups that had warned they would try to disrupt business if war broke out. Vacations and off days were canceled, and every officer was called to active duty at the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, which guards the county’s jail and courthouses, and the California Highway Patrol, which guards the federal courthouses and judges. “It’s safe to say that we were prepared,” said Eileen Hirst, the sheriff’s department’s chief of staff. Sheriff’s personnel pitched in to help police transport people arrested and processed at a mass arrest point set up at Pier 29, Hirst said. Things were much quieter for state police at the California Supreme Court building on McAllister Street, despite a huge protest that began at noon in the Civic Center Plaza. “Everything that’s happened has been peaceful and outside [the building],” said Lt. Robert Maynard, a state police official who helps guard state justices. “Everybody is following the news close enough that they know what’s going on.” That wasn’t the case across the street, however, at the Phillip Burton Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue. Protestors there took a creative approach to protesting and staged a “vomit-in” by forcing themselves to heave red milk on the walkways — the message being that war made them sick. Federal police made seven arrests and had to escort groups of employees and visitors into the building. U.S. District Court Clerk Richard Wieking said court business went on as normal, but people who needed to file documents in San Francisco were allowed to file them in Oakland instead. For lawyers who work in downtown law offices, business went on as usual once people made it into work. Latham & Watkins partner Gregory Lindstrom had to abandon his car near the intersection of Columbus and Broadway and walk to work. Protesters staging sit-ins to block major intersections backed up traffic before it reached the financial district. Protesters also staged a sit-in outside Latham’s San Francisco office at 505 Montgomery St. Kate McAvoy, a Latham administrative assistant, was about 15 minutes late for work because her bus from the Marina district was stopped in North Beach. “I was wearing comfortable shoes,” she said. “I kind of anticipated it.” McAvoy said the five-block walk to the office wasn’t bad, but the atmosphere downtown was surreal, with shouting protesters and scads of police. “It was a little unnerving walking past all of the protesters,” McAvoy said. “There were just so many people.” Reporter Jason Hoppin contributed to this report.

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