Occupy’s SF’s J20 Wall Street West shutdown:
An exhilarating festival of protest
On a rainy windy Friday, thousands, yes thousands came out throughout the day to participate in diverse actions from picket lines at hotels to flash mobs shutting down banks to speak-outs at weapons corporations to rallies at the Courthouse and City Hall. With hundreds here and hundreds there, it did not become clear until the 5 pm march just how successful the day had been, when all gathered together filling up blocks on Market street with protestors from every age, race, and gender.
It was clear from the wee hours of the dawn that the day would be a success, when several groups rallied and chained themselves to each of four entrances at the main Wells Fargo Branch, leaving the employees on the corner unable to enter.
Not only was Wells Fargo forced to close, but there were hundreds gathered in a joyous festival of protest, with the Brass Band orchestra, a dancing flash mob, the elusive black blob representing either a black gulag; the press conception of anarchism; or possibly the black hole of capitalism: up to the individual to decide…But that was just the beginning.
Following the shut-down of the Bank of America down the block from Wells Fargo on Montgomery Street, Oakland’s party bus and dance party took the streets.
It was a brilliant party of protest with hula hoops, clowns, jugglers and a colorful party bus. They took intersections in front of banks, stopped traffic and wowed the passerbyers with dance music throughout the San Francisco financial District. Moving boxes were stuffed in the revolving doors of Citibank representing the millions who have lost their homes to foreclosures.
The Bank of America on Market Street was not only shut down, but turned into the People’s Food Bank of America by Occupy SF’s autonomous action working group with a colorful sign and multiple protestors tied to its doors while crowds of people were fed in front of its ATM machine.
A SF Occupier read off the litany of crimes committed by Bank of America and its executives at its doors. Hundreds gathered at the 9th Circuit Court at noon to demand an end to unlimited funding of political campaigns by corporations and to demand a constitutional amendment ending corporate personhood on the anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision (the beginning of the end of campaign finance reform).
Shortly after, hundreds gathered on the steps of City Hall to stop the foreclosure auction of a resident’s house. The auction was postponed. Various protestors entered City Hall to protest other foreclosure auctions after workers and residents spoke about the struggle to maintain housing amid the predatory practices of banks.
And at Bechtel, powerful speakers spoke of Bechtel’s profiteering in Iraq, attempts to privatize public water in Bolivia, and energy policy dominated by corporations seeking profit instead of a sustainable future. One speaker pointed out that German citizens are actually profiting in the thousands because they can sell back their energy from solar panels to the energy grid. He explained that this is due to Germany’s energy policy that encourages solar and wind instead of fossil fuels. While Germany and China are cornering the market for solar, the U.S. continues to promote reliance on fossil fuels to the detriment of our children and the Earth.
A speaker from Iraq Veteran’s Against the War passionately pointed out that it is the children of the poor and working classes that are sent to fight wars for the benefit of the 1%, not the children of Senators.
The day was filled with many more actions such as a squid at Goldman Sachs representing multiple arms sucking the money out of communities. At 5, thousands gathered walking up Market Street and speakers from diverse groups rallied the crowd against the wars, bank dominance of our economy and the 1% control of our political system.
One of the highlights of the day was the takeover of the Cathedral Hill Hotel, an extension of the evening march in an action to take back the commons.
Some fifteen protestors managed to enter the enormous but empty hotel, and a few hundred more protestors arrived from the march. However, riot police pepper-sprayed some ten to twelve people to keep the protestors from entering the empty building.
The march then retreated around the block and returned, managing to liberate a back door. Some one hundred people streamed into the hotel in jubilation that rooms could be made available for the homeless.
Ironically, the hotel, empty but in great condition has hundreds of empty rooms that could house the burgeoning homeless population of San Francisco. Yet, thanks to our system, the hotel will remain empty and its doors welded shut while the homeless population continues to increase.
A few occupiers were eventually arrested though most left voluntarily after a few hours exploring the hotel.
Throughout the day, there were a number of courageous bank protestors arrested for chaining themselves to the doors of Wells Fargo and Bank of America.
And despite some controversy as to whether the Action Council, the arm of Occupy SF involving representatives from non-profits, was over- taking Occupy SF, it was clear in the end that this action was an action by the people.
The people took over the intersections stopping traffic, entered the empty hotel, turned Bank of America into a food bank and danced in the streets, with or without non-profit backing.
And as for demands, well the actions speak for themselves, but just to name a few of the day’s demands: the end of bank bailouts and corporate dominance over our economic and political system, the end to corporate personhood and unlimited funding of campaigns, rights and fair wages for workers, food instead of bombs, the end of unjust foreclosures, criminal prosecution of financial fraud, investment in clean energy instead of weapons, housing for the homeless and a political system by and for the people instead of by and for the banks; weapons corporations; and the 1%.
~ Beth Seligman