Wednesday, May 2, 2012

OccupySF May Day March and Commune

The march began at Market and Montgomery, I walked east from Van Ness along Market in order to meet them. On the way I saw a guy wearing a 99% sticker and we fell in together. This was Leo, an early member of EarthFirst!
 On market, nearing Van Ness. The atmosphere is sunny, windy and festive.

The nice SFPD has sent the nice police people to escort us. I wonder why they have their riot helmets? I greet some of the cops and thank them for being there.
Lily had just been to the OccupyThe Farm plot in Berkeley/Albany, where there were a lot of families and programs for kids. Various established community gardens in SF are donating starters to the farm. See a great article on the Gill Tract Farm.
Extract from the "Occupy The Farm" site above: "
Occupy the Farm, a coalition of local residents, farmers, students, researchers, and activists are planting over 15,000 seedlings at the Gill Tract, the last remaining 10 acres of Class I agricultural soil in the urbanized East Bay area. The Gill Tract is public land administered by the University of California, which plans to sell it to private developers.
For decades the UC has thwarted attempts by community members to transform the site for urban sustainable agriculture and hands-on education. With deliberate disregard for public interest, the University administrators plan to pave over this prime agricultural soil for commercial retail space, a Whole Foods, and a parking lot."

Faces in the march:
The picture depicts farmers protesting against Monsanto.
See Lily's photos for May Day, and her blog posts for MayDay.
 This Colombian had just attended the AM's rally for immigrant rights in the Mission. He'd been at the pre-rally the evening before, which was supposed to have been an opportunity for Occupy and Immigrants' Rights people to get together, but, as many of you have seen, it ended up getting hijacked by violence on Valencia.
Heading north on Van Ness

Eduardo Galeano cameo appearance in the crowd.
 By the way I should mention that one of the leaders of the rally and march was a South Asian bro, a young Bangladeshi-American. The first time I met him after an OccupySF GA, he very nerdily, like a well-brought-up Indian boy, pulled out his laptop to do some classwork!
The cops lined up on the sidewalk, and didn't interfere with

the takeover of the abandoned ArchDiocese building. This is not a Liberation Theology church, it doesn't seem.

Long video (almost 4 mins) of walk through the building.

During the march, there was a police escort of 3-4 motorcycles in front, and a single file of about 30 cops on each flank of the marchers. Soon after the building had been taken over, most of the cops seemed to disappear, there were about 15 left milling about and videographing the entrance and crowd from the opposite sidewalk. But cops never mill about, they never just disappear, and I'll confess to being nervous.
The feeding of the people.

This man brought 8 trays of food to the commune.

The chain link fence was taken down peaceably, not torn down.
Why we do this: Jim Dorenkott, of VeteransForPeace. The T-shirt states "One of three homeless adults has served our country. Help house our homeless veterans." This is the practical meaning of "support our troops".
 Of course, many other vets become MERCENARIES, or whatever you want to call BlackWater/Xeon and other "private security companies". Some of you raised concerns about the amount of "my tax-money" cities are spending on Occupy related events. Do you have any idea how much money is pouring into the coffers of Mercenary companies? All are privately owned, and most are more profitable than even your most profitable SiValley Tech companies. Google the info. I find articles and post them later.
A poster inside the building, Top


I just loved this! You can add Bhagat Singh, Tupac Amaru, Steve Biko ...

The woman on the right is a what-passes-for-a-journalist for KGO/FOX, who went around asking what I considered antagonistic and provocative questions.
 At one point I asked her why she didn't engage with the cops and ask them why they were there, to which she responded with "Can you say 'Below low BlueBook Value' thrice?". I'll be prepared for that next time. There were multiple signs and posters designating the 2nd floor as media free, and she insisted on trying to bull-doze her way through. Yet another Anne Coulter clone, perhaps not as vituperative.

The entrance.

People on the second floor, playing music. Yes, I do realise its similarity to Munich Olympics 1972. Without comparing or judging the causes, one difference is M/C gun vs. laptop.
I did a walk through the place: there was electricity, running water in a sink in a utility room, a reception area, multiple classrooms and smaller rooms on the 1st floor, a kitchen and various sized living space on the second floor.
Puerto Rico Libre!

Messages on the sidewalk

and on the chain link fence.
Uh-oh! Front.


Left. They cleared and barricaded the sidewalk.

The black beetles had been hiding in the lobby of the posh apartment building opposite! The official SFPD resting posture - right hand playing with mouth or chin. Doesn't it indicate they are hiding something, lying? I have to say the SFPD is more racially (but not in terms of gender) heterogeneous than the Occupy movement.

The SFPD periodically would block-off the road and then open it up again, it seemed to me just so they could practising pushing people around when they opened the street up and wanted to clear it.

The embedded journalist again.

Videographer for CBS I think.
This guy's TV-journalist stated on TV that "they were right there in the midst of the Occupiers." I pointed out that just from the footage (showing the backs of the cops or with the cops off to one side, and mostly frontal, affronting shots focussed on the Occupiers and the building, no footage taken of the police preparations and the threatening atmosphere it was beginning to create) and thier physical location it was clear that they were NOT with the occupiers, they were already biased towards the cops. This was also apparent from the general big-press/police bonhomie.
An Occupier asking the police to leave.
 The street was blockaded and cleared, but most of the Occupiers seemed insouciant of the (what I felt to be ominous) police build-up. I asked some of them about it, and they responded that they knew they weren't doing anything wrong, and they had been facing this since November and had become used to it, and this played down the police threat.

More barricades.

Moving in for action from across the street.

No order to disperse had been given, but the cops were moving people around, from one side of the street to another, then they would all move in against us really quick and squeeze us into narrow spaces against the building, and move in really quickly so people were tripping over each other. There were a couple of people in wheelchairs who couldn't move fast enoiugh and the pressure from the cops led one in a wheelchair to fall over, the cops heeded no entreaties and their pressure caused another walker to also fall over.

Since the cops were using the barricades to encircle the occupied building (I'll confess to not having found the courage to stay on the inside.) and pressing people on the inside, confrontations were increasing. The cops would push the barricades in and then say, "Don't touch the barricade!". Batons were lifted and brought down on people who tried to push back against the barricades. I admire the cops for their bravery against overwhelming odds: against colorful skirts, hoop ear-rings, tattoos, masks, bandanas etc. any sane person would go armed with flak jackets, helmets, face shields, batons, guns, tear gas, rubber bullets. Did I already mention that they outnumbered the people by 2:1? To defend an unoccupied building? In a city with numerous homeless and a 60% ILLEGAL foreclosure rate? Of course "Occupy is costing the city millions.".

See a video-poetry version of the following indictment of US Police.

"Our security depends on regulation but the police have turned bandits. They don't obey the rules. (Nor their own mission statement.) They are swarming into civic life. ... The security forces have rebelled. The people are the victim of a coup. ...

Who comes here? Let me hold up my lantern. It's only the police ... just a few of them as always whistling as they go.

The faithful body public has made a mistake. ... Coming up behind are hundreds of them. Hundreds too many, armed to the teeth for a job that doesn't need doing. Not needed? With all that weaponry?

Here they come, hurtling through the lifestream trying to pick a fight. There's no one to fight but you. You're the foreign body now."
-- paraphrased from pg 115, Written on the body, Jeanette Winterson

Bad stuff goes down. Someone on the inside of the building climbed onto the top of the roof and stood there crowing. At some point he picked up some bricks, and periodically held them aloft. The cops took no action, they did not respond to this (for at least 15 minutes) leave alone anticipate this - there were numerous higher vantage points on buildings the cops could have climbed up onto.
We were in the street, facing the building, with the cops lined up 1-2 deep in front of us, any observer would have thought they were protecting us. There were people in the crowd who were shouting to the guy on the roof to get off, that he was not one of us, that he did not represent us. At some point the idiot on the roof, with no warning, threw a brick, I would assume at the cops. The idiot aimed high, the brick sailed over the impassive cops' heads, but only a couple of feet over. I could see it coming in, in seeming slow motion, rotating slowly, I seemed to think there was plenty of time to react, to yell a warning to the guy one person removed from me in the crowd, to move around and push him out of the way. In that millisecond after I spotted the brick over the heads of the very very smartly dressed cops, it was over! The brick smashed into the face of the guy, he fell down, unconscious, two people in the crowd quickly grabbed him, supported his head and dragged him to the sidewalk and started aiding him, with his head on one person's lap.

I didn't have time to respond, I was frozen, didn't see the brick until it was above the cops. Q: Weren't even some of them looking up at the roof, at the idiot in plain sight? A: They hadn't been ordered to. Q: Could none of them, with all their training, have anticipated the brick, responded to it by trying to block it? A: They hadn't been ordered to. Q: Could none of them, helmeted and flak jacketed (and nattily dressed) as they were have thrown their body on the line to save a fellow citizen, as the soldiers in the war movies seem to throw their bodies on a grenade to save their comrades? A: We aren't their comrades. A cop who'd done any of the above would have deserved a commendation for bravery, but ...

Someone in the crowd had called an ambulance, but the surrounding streets had been blocked by cops. It took the cops themselves two minutes to realise someone had been hurt, and one turned around and asked me whether the victim was okay and where he was. I said, "He's right there on the sidewalk.". Five feet away.

In the meantime, an experienced occupier had climbed up on the roof, disarmed the brick-throwing idiot and gotten him to disappear. The crowd yelled deprecations up at the brick-thrower, one young woman next to me was crying, "He doesn't represent us, he's not one of us!" See also OccupySF's response to the violence on Valencia.

So now the cops pulled out their guns (tear-gas and rubber bullets, I was told) and aimed them at the Occupier who'd controlled the brick-thrower. Some of the cops then lowered their sights and aimed them at the people in the windows on the second floor. I and others yelled at the cops to please lower their weapons,  that the guy now on the roof had eliminated the cockerel brick-thrower. No avail.
Soon we were herded onto a street corner, and then off the sidewalk onto the street! Just earlier, I'd noticed the motto on the arm-badge:

I'd started shouting their motto back at them, repeating it three times, sometimes in English, and then adding, "ESTO NO ES GUERRA, ESTO ES PAZ, QUE SEAIS DE ORO." (THIS IS NOT WAR, THIS IS PEACE, BE GOLD!)
A police higher up approached me, I told him, "You are stronger than us, hold your peace." He said he was only moving us off the street (?), "Everything had changed."
The civil suit is a reporter.
The senior officer approached me again, put his hands on my back, and when I turned around, said, "You seem to be a leader, call that guy off the roof." What is it about me that makes me such an obvious "leader"? My grey hair? My age? My green kurti? My sloganeering?
The brave, the few.
You've watched it on the news, you know how it ended. Homeless individuals and homeless families were evicted from what could and should have been a safe haven.

Huffington Post

So an empty building has been rescued from use by homeless via the massive deployment of police force. Was that expense necessary, given the situation of the homeless in SF?

Meanwhile in Oakland


Anonymous said...

The powers can always sabotage a peaceful movement. Even inside the powers, peaceful thoughts/requests are slammed down (e.g. Bill Moyers in the White House during Vietnam).

Takes a lot of courage to be there, so to all the folks who were there - "thanks for the inspiration". There are people all over chipping away at the system.

Thanks for the writeup and the pictures - well organized.


Unknown said...

Thorough job. Many thanks.

Lee o said...

Pleasure to meet and talk with you on May Day.
Your contributions/participation
here, and elsewhere, much appreciated! said...

Thank you! I say do it, definitely! Flowers are such a common sticker that you should have no problem finding a set that will work for you. Just make sure you don't get gems like I did. ;) I would love to see the finished mani if you decide to do it! It seems like such a cool idea.
bullet stickers

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