Polar bear protesting @barackobama #obama2012

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside a fundraising event by President Barack Obama at San Francisco’s Nob Hill Masonic Center Thursday to protest a variety of grievances they have with the president, including medical marijuana policies, war, the environment, abortion and birth control.

The varied group was penned in across the street from the event at 1111 California St., thrusting Tea Party protesters next to marijuana campaigners and environmental activists.

The Tea Party composed one of the larger groups there, equipped with foam fingers that said “NOBAMA” that they wagged and pointed while shouting “shame.”

“We’re fighting communism,” said one Tea Party protester who identified himself as Dean. “I fought in Vietnam but I didn’t fight for this.”

Dean said he is a resident of Hawaii but also has a home in San Francisco, and joked that the president was an illegal alien.

Nearby, another protester, holding a sign that said, “Pregnancy is not a disease,” said that he is protesting the president’s recent policies requiring employers to pay for contraception.

“A lot of people believe that abortion is a remedy for problems but we believe in life and the Christian understanding that life starts at conception,” said Benicia resident Al Williams.

“I would not be here if it wasn’t for an assault on religious freedom,” Williams said.

Another large group consisted of opponents of the federal government’s recent crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Brentwood resident Tommy Schneider arrived with a sign that said, “‘Stop the war on medical cannabis or lose my vote,’ signed by a California registered Democrat.”

“I’ve been pretty upset with the way the federal government is closing the medical cannabis dispensaries,” Schneider said.

“They pay us lip service that they’re going to be laying off the states and because of that many dispensaries opened up,” he said.

Schneider said that he voted for Obama in 2008, but unless he sees the policy change, he will not vote for any presidential candidate in 2012.

As with many recent protests, several protesters also identified with the Occupy Wall Street movement, and in the middle of the crowd started chants like, “The system has got to die, hella hella occupy.”

Joseph Rosas from Occupy San Jose carried a large sign on his back that said, “I’ll believe corporations are people when San Jose City Hall evicts one.”

Rosas said that he attended the protest because Obama has shown little support for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“Because he is a supposedly liberal president he should be in favor of freedom of speech,” Rosas said.

Rosas, who said he is a candidate for the state assembly in district 24, which covers parts of Santa Clara County, remains angry over the forced eviction of Occupy San Jose from outside of San Jose City Hall, despite working and partnering with local businesses, he said.

James Lee, from Occupy Redwood City, said he attended the protest for a variety of causes, including military action in Yemen, financial policies that he said favor large banks, and the continued detention of WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning.

Protesters shouted their complaints at the building where Obama would speak, creating a cacophony of derision toward the president.

Activists with World Can’t Wait arrived with large signs against the possibility of war with Iran and Manning’s detention. Supporters of the Center for Biological Diversity dressed as polar bears to draw attention to the possibility that oil drilling may be permitted in the Arctic Ocean.

Some protesters combined different causes in their message, like one blond woman wearing a marijuana leaf-patterned sweatshirt carrying a sign that stated, “Weed not War.”

Photo of polar bear protesting Barack Obama: Steve Rhodes

Scott Morris, Bay City News

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