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The anti-war protesters who have taken to the streets of San Francisco the past week have done an admirable job of forcefully conveying their message while keeping the protests relatively peaceful. Still, some 2,300 have been arrested and stand accused of minor criminal violations such as blocking traffic or resisting arrest. This presents District Attorney Terence Hallinan with an interesting dilemma. Every one of the 2,300 arrestees who lives in San Francisco is a likely voter for Hallinan in this fall’s DA election. Hallinan, who styles himself as the state’s most progressive DA, draws his core support from liberal, anti-establishment San Franciscans — the ones most likely to vehemently oppose the war. And they’re going to vote too: Citizens who assert their rights through public protest are not the type to sit on their hands on Election Day. So, politically speaking, it makes about as much sense for Hallinan to aggressively prosecute the protesters as it does for President Bush to crack down on corporate crime or Gavin Newsom to propose a giant homeless shelter for the Marina. Hallinan has said he will prosecute, but — as we know from the recent police indictments — he could very well change his mind. And there is historical precedent for a forgiving approach. In 1988 then-DA Arlo Smith discharged for lack of evidence the cases of 443 demonstrators who were arrested outside the federal building. The demonstrators were protesting U.S. military involvement in Central America. And in 1993 Smith dropped charges against 400 peaceful protesters of the Rodney King verdict. In fact, those protesters wound up forcing the city to pay a $220,000 class action settlement for wrongful arrest. The one time that Smith did attempt large-scale prosecutions against protesters — following the Gulf War in 1991 — the results were abysmal. Of the first 400 protesters prosecuted, only 28 were convicted, while the rest were acquitted or had their cases thrown out, mostly due to evidence problems. A similar showing by Hallinan could not only alienate his core constituency, it also could fuel negative perceptions about his office’s competence. On the other hand, dropping charges indiscriminately would further strain relations between the DA’s office and the police department, and allow Hallinan’s more moderate political opponents to paint him as the anarchist DA. So in the interest of public service, The Recorder proposes the following solution. Forget trials, forget jail time, forget fines. Drop the charges — or let the protesters plead no contest — as long as they agree to a brief stint of community service. Would this let the violent protesters get off easy? Certainly not. Just as Hallinan has proposed dividing the prosecutions into tiers, so could the level of community service. The most serious offenders, for example, could be required to: � Manufacture American flag pins to be worn by TV newscasters. � Do beautification work on city streets and sidewalks — in front of Starbucks coffee shops. � Undertake further public protest — in Dallas, Houston or Crawford, Texas (government assumes no risk for injuries). The moderate offenders — those who resisted arrest or overturned trash cans — could be ordered to: � Spend six hours on the phone debating bloodthirsty ultra-hawks on Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy or similar talk radio shows. � Volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity project (sponsored by Bechtel Corp.). � Undertake further protest — in Bakersfield, San Diego or Orange County. The folks who were merely blocking traffic or committing similar minor offenses could be given more constructive assignments: � Volunteer for Red Cross. � Serve meals to homeless people displaced by the protests. � Register citizens to vote — for this fall’s election, and for 2004.

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