Thoughts on Occupy SF (updated)


Yesterday, the Huffington Post ran my initial take on the Occupy SF movement–and Occupy Wall Street in general.

The encampment, huddled on the sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve on Market Street, was a veritable Noah’s Ark of lefty protest. There were dreads in camo pants, Boomers in recycled-rubber sandals, crust punks with Guy Fawkes masks — red meat for Fox news, in other words.

But then a DPW street cleaning truck trundled by on Market Street. The guy in the passenger seat was leaning halfway out the window, high-fiving sign-waving protesters on the sidewalk. And every time the F-line passed the driver leaned on his horn, prompting a cheer from the protesters.

Clearly, this wasn’t just another San Francisco protest.

This is a fast-moving story, though. After my piece went up yesterday, word got out that the police were planning another raid on the camp Wednesday night. The call went out, and maybe a thousand came out to protect the encampment, and stayed deep into the night. A few impressions from last night’s gathering:

SF’s Brass Liberation Orchestra played its highly danceable version of protest music. The guy with the tuba was my favorite.

A woman danced while wearing a gas mask.

A new chant (at least to my ears) was born: “Hella, Hella Occupy!”

Rumors flew that some 2,000 Oakland occupiers were marching across the Bay Bridge to reinforce the SF encampment. Alas, they were just rumors.

Word was that hundreds of riot cops were massing in Potrero and headed to Justin Herman. Somewhat puzzlingly, they had piled into Muni buses for the ride up to the encampment. The jokes, of course, told themselves: “Riot police are on their way, but they may be a little late–they’re taking Muni.”

Bart shut down Oakland’s 12th Street station to prevent the Oakland occupiers from coming to San Francisco. Then they closed Embaradero station–due to a “civil disturbance,” as the agency put it. If only Bart could monetize the commuter anger it’s been generating lately, there’d be enough money to fund 24-7 service across the bay.

There was a lot of cigarette smoke. Activism requires lots of standing around and waiting. Hence the cigarettes.

Organizers taught the crowds to link arms and form defensive lines encircling the camp. People scrawled the number for the National Lawyers Guild (415.285.1011) on their arms, and donned vinegar-soaked bandanas in case of tear gas.

And then nothing happened. The cops never showed. Possibly because there were so many people there and the City Family didn’t want to risk an Oakland-style melee. It couldn’t have hurt that a good chunk of the city’s elected officials–including mayoral candidates Avalos, Yee, Adachi, and Chiu–turned up in the plaza last night. (Yes, Occupy SF has become an issue in the mayor’s race.) Today, the police said their maneuvers were just late-night training exercises. Advisory letters sent to businesses near the encampment suggest otherwise.

In any case, the camp’s still there. At least until tonight.