May Day

Events: July 16 – 22, 2014


Listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Submit items for the listings at For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Selector.


“The James Webb Space Telescope: Science Potential and Project Status” Randall Museum Theater, 199 Museum Way, SF; 7:30pm, free. Tom Greene of NASA Ames Research Center discusses the highly advanced James Webb Space Telescope.

“Lyrics and Dirges” Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck, Berk; 7:30pm, free. Monthly reading series curated by Sharon Coleman, with Joyce E. Young, Monica Zarazua, Joshua McKinney, Katayoon Zandvakili, Rusty Morrison.

Celeste Ng Book Passage, 1 Ferry Bldg, SF; 6pm, free. The author shares Everything I Never Told You, her debut novel about a mixed-race family in 1970s Ohio.


“The Heights of Birding in Colombia” First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin, SF; 7-9pm, $5. Photographer and birding instructor Bob Lewis shows images of birds he observed in the Colombian mountains. Sponsored by the Golden Gate Audobon Society.

LaborFest 2014 Meet at M stop at 19th and Holloway, SF; 2-3pm, free. Park Merced Housing Walk led by members of the Park Merced Action Committee. Also 518 Valencia, SF. 7pm, donations accepted. “FilmWorks United: International Working Class Film and Video Festival:” “The Plundering” (Ressler, 2013), “Made in the USA: Tom Hudak’s Plan to Cut Your Wages” (Gillespie, 2013), “Judith, Portrait of a Street Vendor” (Pirana, 2013),” and “High Power” (Indulkar).


“Bay Area Now 7” opening night party Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; 8-11pm, $12-15. Celebrate the opening of YBCA’s signature triennial, an exhibit highlighting works by local artists who capture “the spirit of now,” with tunes by Honey Soundsystem.

LaborFest 2014 First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin, SF; 7pm, donations accepted. “FilmWorks United:” Empire of Shame (Hong, 2013).


“East Bay SPCA Pet Adopt-a-Thon” Jack London Square, Washington at Embarcadero, Oakl; 10am-3pm, free. Meet your new best friend at this event highlighting East Bay adoption agencies — and the dogs, cats, bunnies, rats, guinea pigs, birds, and reptiles they care for that need new homes. The event also features canine demos and $10 microchip implants.

“GeekGasm” Club OMG, 43 Sixth St, SF; 9pm-2am, $5 (free with advance RSVP and before 11pm). Let your inner geek out with fellow nerds, dorks, cosplayers, furries, sci-fi fans, gamers, and gaymers at this party, which features dancing, a costume contest, drink specials, and more.

LaborFest 2014 ILWU Local 34 Hall, 801 Second St, SF; 10am-1pm, free. “Life and Death! The Attack on OSHA, Workers Health and Safety, and Injured Workers” public forum. Also National Japanese American Historical Society, 1684 Post, SF. 2pm, free. “ILWU and Japanese Americans” presentation. Also ILWU Local 34 Hall. 7:30pm, donation. “Movement Energy: A History of May Day and the Eight Hour Day,” performance by the Rockin’ Solidarity Chorus, Sat, 7:30.

Sara Lautman Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission, SF; 1-3pm, free. The July cartoonist-in-residence shares and discusses her work.

“Meet Your Maker” David Brower Center, 2150 Allston, Berk; Noon-6pm. Free. Celebrate the alternative economies of the Bay Area at this event featuring artisans from Treasure Island Flea, educators from Institute of Urban Homesteading, Urban Ore scavengers, and more, plus a craft market, food trucks, workshops, presentations, and more.


“How a Chinese Game Shaped Modern America” Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission, SF; 1-2pm, free with museum admission ($10-12). Stanford’s Annelise Heinz discusses mah jongg’s journey from China to America’s Jewish community, with a focus on the Catskills and San Francisco. Part of the CJM’s new exhibit, “Project Mah Jongg.”

LaborFest 2014 First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin, SF; Noon-2pm, free. Reception for “Union Artists and Labor Art,” with works by Attila Cziglenyi, Carol Denny, David Duckworth, and others. Also 240 Second St, SF. Noon, free. “Irish Labor History Walk.” Also Niles Station, 37001 Mission, Fremont. 2pm, $7-12. “All Aboard the Niles Canyon Train and Films,” train ride and film screening at the Edison Theater.


“We Are CA: Glen Denny and Yosemite in the Sixties” California Historical Society, 678 Mission, SF; 6-8pm, $5. Veteran Yosemite climber Denny shares photographs and recounts his experiences climbing with the 1960s icons of “Camp Four.”



New minimum wage proposal less ambitious, has broader support

San Francisco bears the unfortunate distinction of having the fastest-growing income inequality nationwide. At the same time, the city may retain its more progressive status as having the highest nationwide minimum wage — if voters approve a November ballot measure unveiled today by Mayor Ed Lee and 10 members of the Board of Supervisors.

The consensus measure would increase the minimum wage for all San Francisco employees to $15 an hour by 2018. Currently, the city’s lowest-paid workers earn $10.74 per hour under the existing minimum wage ordinance.

The proposed increase, announced at a June 10 press conference held in Mayor Lee’s office, calls for minimum wage workers to earn $12.25 per hour by May Day of next year, followed by paycheck increases amounting to $13 an hour in 2016, $14 an hour in 2017, and $15 an hour in 2018.

Crafted by representatives from labor, business, and the nonprofit sector in conjunction with Mayor Lee and Sup. Jane Kim, this November ballot measure proposal is less ambitious than an earlier minimum wage increase floated by the Campaign for a Fair Economy, although both guarantee workers an eventual $15 an hour.

The earlier proposal, backed by a coalition that included city employee union SEIU Local 1021, the Progressive Worker’s Alliance, San Francisco Rising, and other progressive organizations, sought to increase the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2015, $14 by 2016, and $15 by 2017.

So at the end of the day, the newly unveiled consensus proposal would leave minimum wage earners with $0.75 less per hour in 2015 and $1 less in 2017 than what the Campaign for a Fair Economy originally called for, but the broader support for this measure might mean brighter prospects for lowest-paid workers in the long run. The consensus proposal also eliminates the idea of an enforcement committee tasked with holding employers to the mandatory wage increases, yet continues to allocate resources for this purpose.

Shaw San Liu of the Campaign for a Fair Economy, who was part of the negotiations for the consensus measure, noted that this piece was especially important: “It is meaningless to raise the minimum wage if they’re not going to enforce it,” she said. The Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement, tasked with upholding the minimum wage, is currently experiencing a backlog due to case volume.

Shaw San Liu speaks about the importance of the proposed wage increase.

Moderates’ strong opposition to the more ambitious wage increase posed the threat of having two competing measures going to voters in November. Now that a single unified measure is headed to the ballot, there may be less of a risk that workers will end up with an inadequate increase or none at all.

The across-the-board increase to $15 an hour makes this a stronger proposal than a similar wage increase moving forward in Seattle, although that city has a lower cost of living than San Francisco, so the wage will stretch a lot farther. San Francisco has a notoriously high cost of living; former Mayor Willie Brown once famously quipped that anyone earning less than $50,000 simply shouldn’t try to live in the city, and rents were much lower then. Under this proposal, minimum wage workers can hope to earn $31,200 before taxes by 2018, with wages continuing up from there in correlation with Consumer Price Index adjustments.

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce was adamantly opposed to the earlier ballot measure proposal, but is now on board. “We think that with consensus built up around this measure, which residents will be voting on, we’ve reached that compromise,” Wade Rose, co-chair of the Public Policy Committee of the SFCOC, said at the press event.

However, the SFCOC played a minimum role in the negotiations, with the key players being labor leader Mike Casey, Liu of the Progressive Workers Alliance, Sup. Kim and her staff, and Mayor Lee and his staff, with input from a variety of minimum wage earners, employers, and other stakeholders.

Kim called the measure “the most progressive and strongest minimum wage proposal in the country,” and later clarified that unlike a similar proposal in Seattle, this measure guarantees a $15 wage across the board regardless of business size or additional benefits. “There will be no tip credit or health care credit – this will be pure wages that San Francisco workers will be bringing home to their families,” Kim said. “Despite setting a successful precedent in 2003, which set the highest minimum wage in the country then, in the last years in particular we’ve been seeing a widening income gap between our lowest paid workers and our highest paid workers. In times of economic prosperity, no one should be left behind.”

“We’ve heard input from all of the different affected sectors of our community – earners, and people who pay the minimum wage, we’ve heard from nonprofits as well as small businesses and large businesses,” Mayor Lee said at a June 10 press conference. “And today, with the current minimum wage at $10.74, there’s been an across the board agreement that that just doesn’t cut it; that’s not enough.”

Lee emphasized that with the unveiling of the consensus proposal, “there are no two measures. There is one measure,” destined for the November ballot. He added that in the course of negotiations between opposing sides, “there was reality that needed to be checked in on all sides.”

The fight for a higher minimum wage: SF vs. Seattle

On May Day, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proposed raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

As a point of comparison, this proposal would put Seattle minimum-wage earners in the position of only having to devote 46 percent of their total pre-tax income toward rent (based on median monthly rental prices) instead of 63 percent.

Here in San Francisco, the Coalition for a Fair Economy is also seeking to raise the municipal minimum wage, by filing for a measure for the November ballot. The proposal would raise the minimum wage from the current $10.74 per hour to $15 an hour, increasing minimum wage earners’ annual salaries from $22,339 per year to $31,200.

“With the growing national movement to lift up wages in our poorest communities, now is the time to be fighting for a $15 minimum wage in San Francisco,” said Political Action Chair Alysabeth Alexander of SEIU 1021, the service workers’ union that is backing the measure. “I am especially fueled by stories of my co-workers facing homelessness despite working full-time jobs as service providers housing the homeless.”

Median rent in Seattle is $1,190. Median rent in San Francisco is $3,200.

Returning again to these median rental price listings, this $15 an hour proposal on the San Francisco ballot would make it so that San Francisco minimum wage earners would only have to work 1.23 minimum-wage jobs to in order to devote 100 percent of their pre-tax income toward rent, versus 1.7 minimum wage jobs under the current rate.

Er, wait. In order to pay for frills (like food), they would probably have to pick up a second job after all. That does sound a bit exhausting, doesn’t it?

Now the Seattle mayor’s propsal is pretty damn complicated, and socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, whose successful campaign was based on the idea of raising the minimum wage to $15, is working with a group to gather signatures for an initiative to pass an immediate increase to $15 for the November ballot. But it’s worth noting that when Murray floated his $15 an hour proposal, he identified the growing gap between the rich and poor as a major societal problem, saying this increase would “improve the lives of workers who can barely afford to live” in Seattle.

While San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has expressed support for a minimum wage increase, he’s not backing the idea of a $15 per hour minimum wage per se.

“I said I was open to up to $15 an hour,” Lee said in a recent interview on KQED’s Forum to clarify his stance, “and I didn’t state a number at the beginning.”

Instead, Lee has convened a task force with groups such as the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, small business, nonprofits, and others to discuss a minimum wage increase. Calls to the SFCOC, to find out what other (presumably lower) hourly wage amounts are being discussed, haven’t yet been returned. But stay tuned as we continue to follow the issue.

When Krasny asked Lee about whether he would invite SEIU 1021 to the table, Lee responded, “They’re invited! They’re the ones who actually put a number out and then told everybody to catch up with it. I don’t think that’s the way to get it done.”

Dick Meister: The real May Day



By Dick Meister

May Day. A day to herald the coming of Spring with song and dance, a day for
children with flowers in their hair to skip around beribboned maypoles, a
time to crown May Day queens.

But it also is a day for demonstrations heralding the causes of working
people and their unions such as are being held on Sunday that were crucial
in winning important rights for working people. The first May Day
demonstrations, in 1886,  won the  most important of the rights ever won by
working people ­ the right demanded above all others by the labor activists
of a century ago:

“Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will!”

Winning the eight-hour workday took years of hard struggle, beginning in the
mid-1800s. By 1867, the federal government, six states and several cities
had passed laws limiting their employees’ hours to eight per day. The laws
were not effectively enforced and in some cases were overturned by courts,
but they set an important precedent that finally led to a powerful popular

The movement was launched in 1886 by the Federation of Organized Trades and
Labor Unions, then one of the country’s major labor organizations. The
federation called for workers to negotiate with their employers for an
eight-hour workday and, if that failed, to strike on May 1 in support of the

Some negotiated, some marched and otherwise demonstrated.  More than 300,000
struck. And all won strong support, in dozens of cities ­ Chicago, New York,
Baltimore, Boston, Milwaukee, St. Louis, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Denver,
Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Detroit, Washington, Newark, Brooklyn, St. Paul
and others.

More than 30,000 workers had won the eight-hour day by April. On May Day,
another 350,000 workers walked off their jobs at nearly 12,000
establishments, more than 185,000 of them eventually winning their demand.
Most of the others won at least some reduction in working hours that had
ranged up to 16 a day.

Additionally, many employers cut Saturday operations to a half-day, and the
practice of working on Sundays, also relatively common, was all but
abandoned by major industries.

“Hurray for Shorter Time,” declared a headline in the New York Sun over a
story describing a torchlight procession of 25,000 workers that highlighted
the eight-hour-day activities in New York. Never before had the city
experienced so large a demonstration.

Not all newspapers were as supportive, however. The strikes and
demonstrations, one paper complained, amounted to “communism, lurid and
rampant.” The eight-hour day, another said, would encourage “loafing and
gambling, rioting, debauchery, and drunkenness.”

The greatest opposition came in response to the demonstrations led by
anarchist and socialist groups in Chicago, the heart of the eight-hour day
movement. Four demonstrators were killed and more than 200 wounded by police
who waded into their ranks, but what the demonstrators¹ opponents seized on
were the events two days later at a protest rally in Haymarket Square. A
bomb was thrown into the ranks of the police who had surrounded the square,
killing seven and wounding 59.

The bomb thrower was never discovered, but eight labor, socialist and
anarchist leaders ­ branded as violent, dangerous radicals by press and
police alike ­ were arrested on the clearly trumped up charge that they had
conspired to commit murder.  Four of them were hanged, one committed suicide
while in jail, and three were pardoned six years later by Illinois Gov. John
Peter Altgeld.

Employers responded to the so-called Haymarket Riot by mounting a
counter-offensive that seriously eroded the eight-hour day movement’s gains.
But the movement was an extremely effective organizing tool for the
country’s unions, and in 1890 President Samuel Gompers of the American
Federation of Labor was able to call for “an International Labor Day” in
favor of the eight-hour workday. Similar proclamations were made by
socialist and union leaders in other nations where, to this day, May Day is
celebrated as Labor Day.

Workers in the United States and 13 other countries demonstrated on that May
Day of 1890 ­ including 30,000 of them in Chicago. The New York World hailed
it as “Labor’s Emancipation Day.” It was. For it marked the start of an
irreversible drive that finally established the eight-hour day as the
standard for millions of working people.

Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, formerly labor editor of the SF
Chronicle and KQED-TV, has covered labor and politics for a half-century as
a reporter, editor, author and commentator. Contact him through his website,, which includes several hundred of his columns.

(The Bruce blog is written and edited by Bruoe B. Brugmann, editor at large of the Guardian. He is the former editor of the Guardian and with his wife Jean Dibble the co-founder and co-publisher of the Guardian,1966-2012.)

Happy May Day, San Francisco


Happy May Day, comrades, and what a fine May day it is even if the urgent mayday spirit on this International Workers Day doesn’t seem as strong as some recent years past in the Bay Area.

While Russia seems to be rediscovering its previous practice of massive May Day marches marked by anti-Western propaganda, spurred on by renewed nationalism from the standoff in Ukraine, May Day has never been very big in the US.

The holiday celebrated throughout the world with workers showing their strength and demanding their fair share of our collective wealth marks the anniversary of a labor demonstration that turned violent and triggered a harsh crackdown in Chicago in 1886. While the socialists of the Second International adopted the May Day holiday in 1889, the American holiday of Labor Day was adopted as a bland alternative meant to take the radical edge off of workers movements.

But many leftists in the US retained an affinity for May Day, and it was infused with a renewed spirit and radical energy by supporters of immigration reform and an end to deportations that divide up families, with massive marches in major US cities in 2006 catching the media and political establishment off-guard.

 Then, two years ago, fresh off of the Occupy Wall Street (and Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Oakland, etc.), some young anarchists rampaged through the Mission District, breaking windows, spray painting luxury cars, attacking a police station, and generally targeting what they saw as the forces of wealth and gentrification, albeit in a misguided and widely condemned way.

Today’s big May Day march in San Francisco starts at the 24th Street BART Plaza, again strongly emphasizing the need for immigration reform, but also marrying that cause with the anti-displacement and anti-eviction activism that are roiling San Francisco these days. [The poster for the event even features a photo of a recent Google bus blockade CORRECTION: The photo is actually of immigration activists blocking a deportation bus.]

Meanwhile, in the East Bay, the main May Day march begins at 3:30pm at the Fruitvale BART Street, also with a focus on social justice and immigration reform. So get on out there, comrades, you have nothing to lose but your chains.  

Save the world, work less


Save the world, work less. That dual proposition should have universal appeal in any sane society. And those two ideas are inextricably linked by the realities of global climate change because there is a direct connection between economic activity and greenhouse gas emissions.

Simply put, every hour of work we do cooks the planet and its sensitive ecosystems a little bit more, and going home to relax and enjoy some leisure time is like taking this boiling pot of water off the burner.

Most of us burn energy getting to and from work, stocking and powering our offices, and performing the myriad tasks that translate into digits on our paychecks. The challenge of working less is a societal one, not an individual mandate: How can we allow people to work less and still meet their basic needs?

This goal of slowing down and spending less time at work — as radical as it may sound — was at the center of mainstream American political discourse for much of our history, considered by thinkers of all ideological stripes to be the natural endpoint of technological development. It was mostly forgotten here in the 1940s, strangely so, even as worker productivity increased dramatically.

But it’s worth remembering now that we understand the environmental consequences of our growth-based economic system. Our current approach isn’t good for the health of the planet and its creatures, and it’s not good for the happiness and productivity of overworked Americans, so perhaps it’s time to revisit this once-popular idea.

Last year, there was a brief burst of national media coverage around this “save the world, work less” idea, triggered by a report by the Washington DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, entitled “Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change.”

“As productivity grows in high-income, as well as developing countries, social choices will be made as to how much of the productivity gains will be taken in the form of higher consumption levels versus fewer work hours,” author David Rosnick wrote in the introduction.

He notes that per capita work hours were reduced by 50 percent in recent decades in Europe compared to US workers who spend as much time as ever on the job, despite being a world leader in developing technologies that make us more productive. Working more means consuming more, on and off the job.

“This choice between fewer work hours versus increased consumption has significant implications for the rate of climate change,” the report said before going on to study various climate change and economic growth models.

It isn’t just global warming that working less will help address, but a whole range of related environmental problems: loss of biodiversity and natural habitat; rapid depletion of important natural resources, from fossil fuel to fresh water; and the pollution of our environment with harmful chemicals and obsolete gadgets.

Every day that the global workforce is on the job, those problems all get worse, mitigated only slightly by the handful of occupations devoted to cleaning up those messes. The Rosnick report contemplates only a slight reduction in working hours, gradually shaving a few hours off the week and offering a little more vacation time.

“The paper estimates the impact on climate change of reducing work hours over the rest of the century by an annual average of 0.5 percent. It finds that such a change in work hours would eliminate about one-quarter to one-half of the global warming that is not already locked in (i.e. warming that would be caused by 1990 levels of greenhouse gas concentrations already in the atmosphere),” the report concludes.

What I’m talking about is something more radical, a change that meets the daunting and unaddressed challenge that climate change is presenting. Let’s start the discussion in the range of a full day off to cutting our work hours in half — and eliminating half of the wasteful, exploitive, demeaning, make-work jobs that this economy-on-steroids is creating for us, and forcing us to take if we want to meet our basic needs.

Taking even a day back for ourselves and our environment will seem like crazy-talk to many readers, even though our bosses would still command more days each week than we would. But the idea that our machines and other innovations would lead us to work far less than we do now — and that this would be a natural and widely accepted and expected part of economic evolution — has a long and esteemed philosophical history.

Perhaps this forgotten goal is one worth remembering at this critical moment in our economic and environmental development.



Author and historian Chris Carlsson has been beating the “work less” drum in San Francisco since Jimmy Carter was president, when he and his fellow anti-capitalist activists decried the dawning of an age of aggressive business deregulation that continues to this day.

They responded with creative political theater and protests on the streets of the Financial District, and with the founding of a magazine called Processed World, highlighting how new information technologies were making corporations more powerful than ever without improving the lives of workers.

“What do we actually do all day and why? That’s the most basic question that you’d think we’d be talking about all the time,” Carlsson told us. “We live in an incredibly powerful and overarching propaganda society that tells you to get your joy from work.”

But Carlsson isn’t buying it, noting that huge swaths of the economy are based on exploiting people or the planet, or just creating unproductive economic churn that wastes energy for its own sake. After all, the Gross Domestic Product measures everything, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

“The logic of growth that underlies this society is fundamentally flawed,” Carlsson said. “It’s the logic of the cancer cell — it makes no sense.”

What makes more sense is to be smart about how we’re using our energy, to create an economy that economizes instead of just consuming everything in its path. He said that we should ask, “What work do we need to do and to what end?”

We used to ask such questions in this country. There was a time when working less was the goal of our technological development.

“Throughout the 19th century, and well into the 20th, the reduction of worktime was one of the nation’s most pressing issues,” professor Juliet B. Schor wrote in her seminal 1991 book The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure. “Through the Depression, hours remained a major social preoccupation. Today these debates and conflicts are long forgotten.”

Work hours were steadily reduced as these debates raged, and it was widely assumed that even greater reductions in work hours was all but inevitable. “By today, it was estimated that we could have either a 22-hour week, a six-month workyear, or a standard retirement age of 38,” Schor wrote, citing a 1958 study and testimony to Congress in 1967.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, declining work hours leveled off in the late 1940s even as worker productivity grew rapidly, increasing an average of 3 percent per year 1948-1968. Then, in the 1970s, workers in the US began to work steadily more hours each week while their European counterparts moved in the opposite direction.

“People tend to think the way things are is the way it’s always been,” Carlsson said. “Once upon a time, they thought technology would produce more leisure time, but that didn’t happen.”

Writer David Spencer took on the topic in a widely shared essay published in The Guardian UK in February entitled “Why work more? We should be working less for a better quality of life: Our society tolerates long working hours for some and zero hours for others. This doesn’t make sense.”

He cites practical benefits of working less, from reducing unemployment to increasing the productivity and happiness of workers, and cites a long and varied philosophical history supporting this forgotten goal, including opposing economists John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx.

Keynes called less work the “ultimate solution” to unemployment and he “also saw merit in using productivity gains to reduce work time and famously looked forward to a time (around 2030) when people would be required to work 15 hours a week. Working less was part of Keynes’s vision of a ‘good society,'” Spencer wrote.

“Marx importantly thought that under communism work in the ‘realm of necessity’ could be fulfilling as it would elicit and harness the creativity of workers. Whatever irksome work remained in realm of necessity could be lessened by the harnessing of technology,” Spencer wrote.

He also cited Bertrand Russell’s acclaimed 1932 essay, “In Praise of Idleness,” in which the famed mathematician reasoned that working a four-hour day would cure many societal ills. “I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached,” Russell wrote.

Spencer concluded his article by writing, “Ultimately, the reduction in working time is about creating more opportunities for people to realize their potential in all manner of activities including within the work sphere. Working less, in short, is about allowing us to live more.”



Schor’s research has shown how long working hours — and the uneven distribution of those hours among workers — has hampered our economy, hurt our environment, and undermined human happiness.

“We have an increasingly poorly functioning economy and a catastrophic environmental situation,” Schor told us in a phone interview from her office at Boston College, explaining how the increasingly dire climate change scenarios add urgency to talking about how we’re working.

Schor has studied the problem with other researchers, with some of her work forming the basis for Rosnick’s work, including the 2012 paper Schor authored with University of Alabama Professor Kyle Knight entitled “Could working less reduce pressures on the environment?” The short answer is yes.

“As humanity’s overshoot of environmental limits become increasingly manifest and its consequences become clearer, more attention is being paid to the idea of supplanting the pervasive growth paradigm of contemporary societies,” the report says.

The United States seems to be a case study for what’s wrong.

“There’s quite a bit of evidence that countries with high annual work hours have much higher carbon emissions and carbon footprints,” Schor told us, noting that the latter category also takes into account the impacts of the products and services we use. And it isn’t just the energy we expend at work, but how we live our stressed-out personal lives.

“If households have less time due to hours of work, they do things in a more carbon-intensive way,” Schor said, with her research finding those who work long hours often tend to drive cars by themselves more often (after all, carpooling or public transportation take time and planning) and eat more processed foods.

Other countries have found ways of breaking this vicious cycle. A generation ago, Schor said, the Netherlands began a policy of converting many government jobs to 80 percent hours, giving employees an extra day off each week, and encouraging many private sector employers to do the same. The result was happier employees and a stronger economy.

“The Netherlands had tremendous success with their program and they’ve ended up with the highest labor productivity in Europe, and one of the happiest populations,” Schor told us. “Working hours is a triple dividend policy change.”

By that she means that reducing per capita work hours simultaneously lowers the unemployment rate by making more jobs available, helps address global warming and other environmental challenges, and allows people to lead happier lives, with more time for family, leisure, and activities of their choosing.

Ironically, a big reason why it’s been so difficult for the climate change movement to gain traction is that we’re all spending too much time and energy on making a living to have the bandwidth needed to sustain a serious and sustained political uprising.

When I presented this article’s thesis to Bill McKibben, the author and activist whose movement is desperately trying to prevent carbon concentrations in the atmosphere from passing critical levels, he said, “If people figure out ways to work less at their jobs, I hope they’ll spend some of their time on our too-often neglected work as citizens. In particular, we need a hell of a lot of people willing to devote some time to breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry.”


That’s the vicious circle we now find ourselves in. There is so much work to do in addressing huge challenges such as global warming and transitioning to more sustainable economic and energy systems, but we’re working harder than ever just to meet our basic needs — usually in ways that exacerbate these challenges.

“I don’t have time for a job, I have too much work to do,” is the dilemma facing Carlsson and others who seek to devote themselves to making the world a better place for all living things.

To get our heads around the problem, we need to overcome the mistaken belief that all jobs and economic activity are good, a core tenet of Mayor Ed Lee’s economic development policies and his relentless “jobs agenda” boosterism and business tax cuts. Not only has the approach triggered the gentrification and displacement that have roiled the city’s political landscape in the last year, but it relies on a faulty and overly simplistic assumption: All jobs are good for society, regardless of their pay or impact on people and the planet.

Lee’s mantra is just the latest riff on the fabled Protestant work ethic, which US conservatives and neoliberals since the Reagan Era have used to dismantle the US welfare system, pushing the idea that it’s better for a single mother to flip our hamburgers or scrub our floors than to get the assistance she needs to stay home and take care of her own home and children.

“There is a belief that work is the best form of welfare and that those who are able to work ought to work. This particular focus on work has come at the expense of another, far more radical policy goal, that of creating ‘less work,'” Spencer wrote in his Guardian essay. “Yet…the pursuit of less work could provide a better standard of life, including a better quality of work life.”

And it may also help save us from environmental catastrophe.



The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the top research body on the issue recognized by the United Nations, recently released its fifth report summarizing and analyzing the science and policies around climate change, striking a more urgent tone than in previous reports.

On April 13 at a climate conference in Berlin, the panel released a new report noting that greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than ever and urgent action is needed in the next decade to avert a serious crisis.

“We cannot afford to lose another decade,” Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the report, told The New York Times. “If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.”

After the panel released an earlier section of the report on March 31, it wrote in a public statement: “The report concludes that responding to climate change involves making choices about risks in a changing world. The nature of the risks of climate change is increasingly clear, though climate change will also continue to produce surprises.”

The known impacts will be displaced populations in poor countries inundated by rising seas, significant changes to life-supporting ecosystems (such as less precipitation in California and other regions, creating possible fresh water shortages), food shortages from loss of agricultural land, and more extreme weather events.

What we don’t yet know, these “surprises,” could be even scarier because this is such uncharted territory. Never before have human activities had such an impact on the natural world and its delicate balances, such as in how energy circulates through the world’s oceans and what it means to disrupt half of the planet’s surface area.

Researchers have warned that we could be approaching a “global tipping point,” in which the impact of climate change affects other systems in the natural world and threatens to spiral out of control toward another mass extinction. And a new report funded partially by the National Science Foundation and NASA’s Goodard Space Center combines the environmental data with growing inequities in the distribution of wealth to warn that modern society as we know it could collapse.

“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent,” the report warned.

It cites two critical features that have triggered most major societal collapses in past, both of which are increasingly pervasive problems today: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity”; and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or ‘Commoners’),” which makes it more difficult to deal with problems that arise.

Both of these problems would be addressed by doing less overall work, and distributing the work and the rewards for that work more evenly.



Carol Zabin — research director for the Center for Labor Research and Education at UC Berkeley, who has studied the relation between jobs and climate change — has some doubts about the strategy of addressing global warming by reducing economic output and working less.

“Economic activity which uses energy is not immediately correlated with work hours,” she told us, noting that some labor-saving industrial processes use more energy than human-powered alternatives. And she also said that, “some leisure activities could be consumptive activities that are just as bad or worse than work.”

She does concede that there is a direct connection between energy use and climate change, and that most economic activity uses energy. Zabin also said there was a clear and measurable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions during the Great Recession that began with the 2008 economic crash, when economic growth stalled and unemployment was high.

“When we’re in recessions and output and consumption slow, we see a reduction in impact on the climate,” Zabin said, although she added, “They’re correlated, but they’re not causal.”

Other studies have made direct connections between work and energy use, at least when averaged out across the population, studies that Rosnick cited in his study. “Recent work estimated that a 1 percent increase in annual hours per employee is associated with a 1.5 percent increase in carbon footprint,” it said, citing the 2012 Knight study.

Zabin’s main stumbling block was a political one, rooted in the assumption that American-style capitalism, based on conspicuous consumption, would continue more or less as is. “Politically, reducing economic growth is really, really unviable,” she told us, noting how that would hurt the working class.

But again, doesn’t that just assume that the pain of an economic slowdown couldn’t be more broadly shared, with the rich absorbing more of the impact than they have so far? Can’t we move to an economic system that is more sustainable and more equitable?

“It seems a little utopian when we have a problem we need to address by reducing energy use,” Zabin said before finally taking that next logical step: “If we had socialism and central planning, we could shut the whole thing down a notch.”

Instead, we have capitalism, and she said, “we have a climate problem that is probably not going to be solved anyway.”

So we have capitalism and unchecked global warming, or we can have a more sustainable system and socialism. Hmm, which one should we pick? European leaders have already started opting for the latter option, slowing down their economic output, reducing work hours, and substantially lowering the continent’s carbon footprint.

That brings us back to the basic question set forth in the Rosnick study: As productivity increases, should those gains go to increase the wages of workers or to reduce their hours? From the perspective of global warming, the answer is clearly the latter. But that question is complicated in US these days by the bosses, investors, and corporations keeping the productivity gains for themselves.

“It is worth noting that the pursuit of reduced work hours as a policy alternative would be much more difficult in an economy where inequality is high and/or growing. In the United States, for example, just under two-thirds of all income gains from 1973-2007 went to the top 1 percent of households. In that type of economy, the majority of workers would have to take an absolute reduction in their living standards in order to work less. The analysis of this paper assumes that the gains from productivity growth will be more broadly shared in the future, as they have been in the past,” the study concludes.

So it appears we have some work to do, and that starts with making a connection between Earth Day and May Day.



The Global Climate Convergence ( grew out of a Jan. 18 conference in Chicago that brought together a variety of progressive, environmental, and social justice groups to work together on combating climate change. They’re planning “10 days to change course,” a burst of political organizing and activism between Earth Day and May Day, highlighting the connection between empowering workers and saving the planet.

“It provides coordinated action and collaboration across fronts of struggle and national borders to harness the transformative power we already possess as a thousand separate movements. These grassroots justice movements are sweeping the globe, rising up against the global assault on our shared economy, ecology, peace and democracy. The accelerating climate disaster, which threatens to unravel civilization as soon as 2050, intensifies all of these struggles and creates new urgency for collaboration and unified action. Earth Day to May Day 2014 (April 22 — May 1) will be the first in a series of expanding annual actions,” the group announced.

San Mateo resident Ragina Johnson, who is coordinating events in the Bay Area, told us May Day, the international workers’ rights holiday, grew out of the struggle for the eight-hour workday in the United States, so it’s appropriate to use the occasion to call for society to slow down and balance the demands of capital with the needs of the people and the planet.

“What we’re seeing now is an enormous opportunity to link up these movements,” she told us. “It has really put us on the forefront of building a new progressive left in this country that takes on these issues.”

In San Francisco, she said the tech industry is a ripe target for activism.

“Technology has many employees working 60 hours a week, and what is the technology going to? It’s going to bottom line profits instead of reducing people’s work hours,” she said.

That’s something the researchers have found as well.

“Right now, the problem is workers aren’t getting any of those productivity gains, it’s all going to capital,” Schor told us. “People don’t see the connection between the maldistribution of hours and high unemployment.”

She said the solution should involve “policies that make it easier to work shorter hours and still meet people’s basic needs, and health insurance reform is one of those.”

Yet even the suggestion that reducing work hours might be a worthy societal goal makes the head of conservatives explode. When the San Francisco Chronicle published an article about how “working a bit less” could help many people qualify for healthcare subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (“Lower 2014 income can net huge health care subsidy,” 10/12/13), the right-wing blogosphere went nuts decrying what one site called the “toxic essence of the welfare state.”

Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders parroted the criticism in her Feb. 7 column. “The CBO had determined that ‘workers will choose to supply less labor — given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.’ To many Democrats, apparently, that’s all good,” she wrote of Congressional Budget Office predictions that Obamacare could help reduce hours worked.

Not too many Democratic politicians have embraced the idea of working less, but maybe they should if we’re really going to attack climate change and other environmental challenges. Capitalism has given us great abundance, more than we need and more than we can safely sustain, so let’s talk about slowing things down.

“There’s a huge amount of work going on in society that nobody wants to do and nobody should do,” Carlsson said, imagining a world where economic desperation didn’t dictate the work we do. “Most of us would be free to do what we want to do, and most of us would do useful things.”

And what about those who would choose idleness and sloth? So what? At this point, Mother Earth would happily trade her legions of crazed workaholics for a healthy population of slackers, those content to work and consume less.

Maybe someday we’ll even look back and wonder why we ever considered greed and overwork to be virtues, rather than valuing a more healthy balance between our jobs and our personal lives, our bosses and our families, ourselves and the natural world that sustains us.

May Day rally for immigration reform in SF

Hundreds gathered for a rally outside San Francisco City Hall on May 1, capping off a march that drew activists into the streets to commemorate International Workers Day. The events were organized by a broad coalition of immigrant rights advocates to call for improvements to the recently unveiled proposal for federal immigration reform, which will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week. [More photos after the jump]

Olga Miranda of SEIU Local 87, the San Francisco Janitors Union, addressed the crowd. “I want to be able to recognize sheet metal workers, carpenters, laborers, hospital workers, housekeepers, domestic workers,” she said. “We are a proud economy. … All we want is for workers to be able to come out of the dark. We want to make sure that we are not exploited for the color of our skin, that we are not pushed into the darkness. We are Chinese, we are Arabic, we are Filipino, we are gay, we are transgender. We are workers! And comprehensive immigration reform needs to be inclusive.”

Activists from Causa Justa / Just Cause led the crowd in a unity chant in five different languages.


Putri Siti, an undocumented student from Indonesia, shared the story of when she and her family thought they might face deportation. “I am more than just an illegal. I am more than just undocumented. I’m a student. I’m a dancer. It doesn’t matter what paper I have. And now, I am proud to say, that I am undocumented, unafraid, unashamed,”  she said.


Stage Listings


Stage listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Performance times may change; call venues to confirm. Reviewers are Robert Avila, Rita Felciano, and Nicole Gluckstern. Submit items for the listings at



Dirty Dancing: Live! Dark Room, 2263 Mission, SF; $20. Opens Fri/3, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through May 25. Watermelons will be carried, lifts will be attempted, eyes will be hungry, and nobody better put Baby in a corner.

Last Love Mojo Theatre, 2940 16th St, SF; $30. Opens Thu/2, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sun, 8pm. Through May 19. Mojo Theatre performs Peter Papadopoulos’ play about two couples struggling through “the landmines of love.”

Little Me Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; $25-75. Previews Wed/1, 7pm; Thu/2-Fri/3, 8pm. Opens Sat/4, 6pm. Runs Wed, 7pm; Thu-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 6pm. Through May 19. 42nd Street Moon performs Neil Simon’s outrageous musical.

The Merry Wives of Windsor Buriel Clay Theater, African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton, SF; $10-35. Opens Sat/4, 8pm. Runs Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through May 26. African-American Shakespeare Company performs a twist on the Shakespeare classic, set in an urban neighborhood in the 1950s.

“PlayGround Festival of New Works” Various venues, SF and Berk; $15-40. May 1-26. The 17th fest presented by “San Francisco’s incubator for a new generation of playwrights” includes the PlayGround Film Festival, staged readings of four new full-length plays, a fully-produced program of six short plays, panel discussions, and more.


Acid Test: The Many Incarnations of Ram Dass Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; $15-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm (May 11, show at 8pm). Through May 18. Playwright Lynne Kaufman invites you to take a trip with Richard Alpert, a.k.a. Ram Dass (Warren David Keith), as he recounts times high and low in this thoughtful, funny, and sometimes unexpected biographical rumination on the quest for truth and meaning in a seemingly random life by one of the big wigs of the psychedelic revolution and (with his classic book, Be Here Now) contemporary Eastern-looking spirituality. Directed by Joel Mullennix, the narrative begins with Ram Dass today, in his Hawaiian home and partly paralyzed from a stroke, but Keith (one of the Bay Area’s best stage actors, who is predictably sure and engagingly multilayered in the role) soon shakes off the stiff arm and strained speech and springs to his feet to continue the narrative as the ideal self perhaps only transcendental consciousness and theater allow. Nevertheless, Kaufman’s fun-loving and extroverted Alpert is no saint and no model of perfection, which is the refreshing truth explored in the play, but rather a seeker still, ever imperfect and ever trying for greater perfection or at least the wisdom of acceptance. As the privileged queer child of a wealthy Jewish lawyer and industrialist, Alpert was both insider and outsider from the get-go, and that tension and ambiguity makes for an interesting angle on his life as well as the complexities of his relationships with a homophobic Leary, for instance, and his conservative but ultimately loving father. Perfection aside, the beauty in the subject and the play is the subtle, shrewd cherishing of what remains unfinished. (Avila)

Boomeraging: From LSD to OMG Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; $15-50. Tue, 8pm. Through May 28. Comedian Will Durst performs his brand-new solo show.

The Expulsion of Malcolm X Southside Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; $30-42.50. Fri/3-Sat/4, 8pm; Sun/5, 3pm. Colors of Vision Entertainment and GO Productions present Larry Americ Allen’s drama about the relationship between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad.

Foodies! The Musical Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; $30-34. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Open-ended. AWAT Productions presents Morris Bobrow’s musical comedy revue all about food.

How To Make Your Bitterness Work For You Stage Werx Theatre, 446 Valencia, SF; $15-25. Sun/5, 2pm. Fred Raker performs his comedy about the self-help industry.

I’m Not OK, Cupid 🙁 Shelton Theatre, 533 Sutter, SF; $15-35. Thu/2-Sat/4, 8pm. Left Coast Theatre Co., a new company formed in 2012 from the gay men’s writing group GuyWriters Playwrights, offers this rocky but sometimes clever evening of seven short gay comedies about love, relationships, getting it on, getting it off, and so forth. The evening begins with Andrew Black’s A Small Fishing Village Wedged Between Estonia and Latvia, set in the Castro, where a gay couple (Chris Maltby and Dene Larson) try to foil a mixed couple of would-be robbers (Laura Espino and Richard Sargent) by injecting some homoerotic tension between their otherwise heterosexual vibe. Directed by ShawnJ West, it’s drolly if inconsistently acted, but never very funny, and followed by three more non-starters: James A. Martin’s Lollipops, Rodney “Rhoda” Taylor’s Goodbye, Cupid, and Black’s verse-bound Arlecchino’s Last Prank. The second half of the bill proves more satisfying overall — Rich Orloff’s Chekhov-inspired That Bitch, directed by Joseph Frank and featuring the able trio of Hayley Saccomano, Laura Espino, and Danielle O’Dea; Joseph Frank’s wacky The Parenthetical Trap, directed by Frank and Saccomano, wherein sibling rivalry (i.e., the amusingly puerile duo of Kyle Glasow and Dawson Montoya) meets dysfunctional family (rounded out by Gabrielle Motarjemi and Frank) reunited in musical harmony; and Alex Dremann’s randy and well-acted Four Dry Tongues, directed by ShawnJ West, in which friends Ginny (Angela Chandra) and Tristan (Michael Erickson) compete for the affection of guest Matt (Robert Rushin) by flirting with his gorgeously haughty lesbian friend Laura (Danielle O’Dea). (Avila)

The Lost Folio: Shakespeare’s Musicals Un-Scripted Theater, 533 Sutter, Second Flr, SF; $10-20. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 18. Un-Scripted Theater Company performs a fully-improvised, full-length musical inspired by Shakespeare.

The Lullaby Tree Phoenix Theater, 414 Mason, SF; $15-35. Thu/2-Sat/4, 8pm. In the face of the ever more extensive and controversial spread of GMO foods worldwide — not to mention last year’s state battle over Prop 37 — Second Wind premieres founding member and playwright Ian Walker’s half-whimsical, half-hardheaded drama about a boy searching for his mother in the underworld and a small band of lawyers and environmentalists going toe-to-toe with a multinational over the ownership of a mysterious crop of genetically engineered corn. It will eventually become plain that the two stories are linked, but first a ten-year-old boy (Samuel Berston) befriends a somewhat shrunken giant (Davern Wright) in an attempt to find his mother (Evangeline Crittenden) in an enchanted and hostile land of dragons. Elsewhere, Tim (Walker) and law partner Nod (Wright) prepare to do legal battle with a modern-day dragon, in the person of a corporate attorney (Cheryl Smith) for the ominous Mendes Corporation (read: Monsanto). They will argue over the ownership of the corn that has sprung up on the banks of a drowned town, and which may spell environmental disaster for the nature preserve surrounding it. In this fight Tim and Nod are in uneasy, ultimately disastrous alliance with activist Callie (Crittenden), whom Nod distrusts and with whom Tim is hopelessly smitten. The result is a convoluted plot and a fitful production (co-directed by Walker and Misha Hawk-Wyatt) in which a three-pronged story precariously balances the fairy tale, the romance, and the legal battle. It’s the last prong that offers the more interesting if formulaic scenes, in which the politics of GMOs mesh with the swashbuckling machinations of the attorneys. But the less compelling strands converge and take precedence, forcing things down a sentimental and forgettable road. (Avila)

reasons to be pretty San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post, Second Flr, SF; $30-100. Tue-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 3pm). Through May 11. Completing a trilogy of plays about body awareness and self-image (along with The Shape of Things and Fat Pig), Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty begins with a misconstrued remark that quickly gathers enough weight and momentum to tear three sets of relationships apart in the span of a two-hour play. The SF Playhouse production begins with a bang, or rather an awesomely knock-down, blow-out breakup fight between a righteously pissed-off Steph (Lauren English) and her awkwardly passive boyfriend Greg (Craig Marker), who has inadvertently referred to her as “regular” in a conversation with his jerkish buddy Kent (Patrick Russell), which she takes to mean he finds her ugly. English’s Steph is at turns ferocious and fragile, and her comic timing as she eviscerates Greg’s looks in a mall food court zings, while the hyperkinetic Russell elevates the condition of noxiously irredeemable douchebag to an art form. But terrific acting and polished design can only make up so much for a script that feels not only flawed, barely scratching the surface of the whys and wherefores each character has internalized an unrealistic view of the importance of conventional beauty standards, but also already dated, with its circa-2008 pop culture references. Ultimately it gives the impression of being a rerun of a Lifetime television drama that wraps itself up into a too-neat package just in time for the final credits to roll to its admittedly kickass soundtrack (provided by Billie Cox). (Gluckstern)

Sam I Am: A Processional of Short Plays and Prose About Samuel Beckett Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St, SF; $10-20. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through May 11. Performers Under Stress remounts and revamps its series of short plays and pieces by Samuel Beckett, this time staging it throughout the basement quarters of Bindlestiff Studio, where audiences are led around an economical maze of performance spaces. Opening weekend consisted of too much text and too little in way of staging ideas, especially with several spoken selections of Beckett prose (which have reportedly since been dropped from the program). The best of what remains (in a program of six short plays total) includes Valerie Fachman’s respectable performance as the disembodied “mouth” of the brilliant Not I; and James Udom and Geo Epsilany’s duet in Rough for Theatre I, in which a wheelchair-bound food-hoarder (a softly eccentric Epsilany) strikes up a doomed friendship with a blind beggar (a solid Udom) amid a colorless and barren landscape. The bucket of Beckett dreary gets less satisfying from there, though director Scott Baker’s wordless performance as the titular Joe in Eh Joe proves poised and the doubled voices in his head (by Melissa Clason and Allison Hunter Blackwell) both haunting and intriguing. (Avila)

Sex and the City: LIVE! Rebel, 1760 Market, SF; $25. Wed, 7 and 9pm. Open-ended. It seems a no-brainer. Not just the HBO series itself — that’s definitely missing some gray matter — but putting it onstage as a drag show. Mais naturellement! Why was Sex and the City not conceived of as a drag show in the first place? Making the sordid not exactly palatable but somehow, I don’t know, friendlier (and the canned a little cannier), Velvet Rage Productions mounts two verbatim episodes from the widely adored cable show, with Trannyshack’s Heklina in a smashing portrayal of SJP’s Carrie; D’Arcy Drollinger stealing much of the show as ever-randy Samantha (already more or less a gay man trapped in a woman’s body); Lady Bear as an endearingly out-to-lunch Miranda; and ever assured, quick-witted Trixxie Carr as pent-up Charlotte. There’s also a solid and enjoyable supporting cast courtesy of Cookie Dough, Jordan Wheeler, and Leigh Crow (as Mr. Big). That’s some heavyweight talent trodding the straining boards of bar Rebel’s tiny stage. The show’s still two-dimensional, even in 3D, but noticeably bigger than your 50″ plasma flat panel. (Avila)

Steve Seabrook: Better Than You Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; $15-50. Thu, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Extended through May 18. Self-awareness, self-actualization, self-aggrandizement — for these things we turn to the professionals: the self-empowerment coaches, the self-help authors and motivational speakers. What’s the good of having a “self” unless someone shows you how to use it? Writer-performer Kurt Bodden’s Steve Seabrook wants to sell you on a better you, but his “Better Than You” weekend seminar (and tie-in book series, assorted CDs, and other paraphernalia) belies a certain divided loyalty in its own self-flattering title. The bitter fruit of the personal growth industry may sound overly ripe for the picking, but Bodden’s deftly executed “seminar” and its behind-the-scenes reveals, directed by Mark Kenward, explore the terrain with panache, cool wit, and shrewd characterization. As both writer and performer, Bodden keeps his Steve Seabrook just this side of overly sensational or maudlin, a believable figure, finally, whose all-too-ordinary life ends up something of a modest model of its own. (Avila)

Talk Radio Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; $26-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through June 15. Actors Theatre of San Francisco performs Eric Bogosian’s breakthrough 1987 drama.

Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma: The Next Cockettes Musical Hypnodrome, 575 10th St, SF; $30-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through June 1. Thrillpeddlers and director Russell Blackwood continue their Theatre of the Ridiculous series with this 1971 musical from San Francisco’s famed glitter-bearded acid queens, the Cockettes, revamped with a slew of new musical material by original member Scrumbly Koldewyn, and a freshly re-minted book co-written by Koldewyn and “Sweet Pam” Tent — both of whom join the large rotating cast of Thrillpeddler favorites alongside a third original Cockette, Rumi Missabu (playing diner waitress Brenda Breakfast like a deliciously unhinged scramble of Lucille Ball and Bette Davis). This is Thrillpeddlers’ third Cockettes revival, a winning streak that started with Pearls Over Shanghai. While not quite as frisky or imaginative as the production of Pearls, it easily charms with its fine songs, nifty routines, exquisite costumes, steady flashes of wit, less consistent flashes of flesh, and de rigueur irreverence. The plot may not be very easy to follow, but then, except perhaps for the bubbly accounting of the notorious New York flop of the same show 42 years ago by Tent (as poisoned-pen gossip columnist Vedda Viper), it hardly matters. (Avila)

The Waiting Period Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; $25-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Through May 18. Brian Copeland (comedian, TV and radio personality, and creator-performer of the long-running solo play Not a Genuine Black Man) returns to the Marsh with a new solo, this one based on more recent and messier events` in Copeland’s life. The play concerns an episode of severe depression in which he considered suicide, going so far as to purchase a handgun — the title coming from the legally mandatory 10-day period between purchasing and picking up the weapon, which leaves time for reflections and circumstances that ultimately prevent Copeland from pulling the trigger. A grim subject, but Copeland (with co-developer and director David Ford) ensures there’s plenty of humor as well as frank sentiment along the way. The actor peoples the opening scene in the gun store with a comically if somewhat stereotypically rugged representative of the Second Amendment, for instance, as well as an equally familiar “doood” dude at the service counter. Afterward, we follow Copeland, a just barely coping dad, home to the house recently abandoned by his wife, and through the ordinary routines that become unbearable to the clinically depressed. Copeland also recreates interviews he’s made with other survivors of suicidal depression. Telling someone about such things is vital to preventing their worst outcomes, says Copeland, and telling his own story is meant to encourage others. It’s a worthy aim but only a fitfully engaging piece, since as drama it remains thin, standing at perhaps too respectful a distance from the convoluted torment and alienation at its center. Note: review from an earlier run of the same production. (Avila)

The World’s Funniest Bubble Show Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; $8-50. Sun, 11am. Through July 21. Louis “The Amazing Bubble Man” Pearl returns after a month-long hiatus with his popular, kid-friendly bubble show.


The Arsonists Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; $35-60. Tue and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm); Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through May 12. There’s a lot of humor to be found in Alistair Beaton’s crackling translation of Max Frisch’s The Arsonists, playing now at the Aurora Theatre, but much of the laughter it elicits is of the nervous variety, as the play’s mostly protagonist, the effete, bourgeois Herr Biedermann (Dan Hiatt) inadvertently signs off on his own destruction when he invites an uncouth arsonist to come and stay in his attic (Michael Ray Wisely). “If we assume everyone is an arsonist, where does that get us?” becomes his standard deflection, as one arsonist becomes two (adding in the unctuous, nihilistic Tim Kniffin), and the empty attic a repository for giant drums of gasoline, a detonator, and fuse wire — arousing the suspicions of a chorus of firefighters (Kevin Clarke, Tristan Cunningham, Michael Uy Kelly), who act as the conscience and guardians of the township. Although on the surface the scenario is patently absurd, the message that passivity in the face of evil is like helping to measure out the fuse wire that will eventually claim your life, is relatively clear. “Not every fire is determined by fate,” point out the firefighters right in the first act. Hiatt, as Biedermann, strikes an admirable balance between loathsome and powerless, while Gwen Loeb shines as his socialite wife, Babette, as does Dina Percia as his agitated housemaid, Anna. (Gluckstern)

The Coast of Utopia: Voyage & Shipwreck Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; $20-35. Shipwreck runs Wed/1-Thu/2, 7pm; Fri/3-Sat/4, 8pm; Sun/5, 5pm. Voyage runs Sat/4, 3pm. Last year in the Shotgun Players’ production of Voyage, the first part of Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia trilogy (also playing in repertory through May 4), we were introduced to a tight circle of Russian thinkers and dreamers, chafing against the oppressive regime of Nicholas I. In the second part, Shipwrecked, we find them older, perhaps wiser, struggling to keep their revolutionary ideals alive while also juggling familial concerns and personal passions. Focused mainly on Alexander Herzen (Patrick Kelley Jones) and family, Shipwrecked travels from Russia to Germany, France, Italy, and the English Channel, buffeted from all directions by the forces of the uprisings and burgeoning political consciousness of the European proletariat. It’s an unwieldy, sprawling world that Stoppard, and history, have built (made somewhat more so by the Shotgun production’s strangely languid pace during even the most dramatic sequences) but it’s worth making the effort to spend time absorbing the singular world views of Russian émigré Herzen, his impulsively passionate wife Natalie (Caitlyn Louchard), the cantankerous, influential critic Vissarion Belinsky (Nick Medina), professional rabble-rouser Michael Bakunin (Joseph Salazar) and up-and-coming writer Ivan Turgenev (Richard Reinholdt) as they desperately seek to carve out both their personal identities and a greater, cohesive Russian one from the imperfect turmoil of Western philosophy. (Gluckstern)

The Dead Girl Avant Garde, 1328 Fourth St, San Rafael; $25. Wed, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through May 19. AlterTheater performs 90-year-old playwright Ann Brebner’s new family drama.

A Killer Story Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; $20-50. Thu-Sat, 8pm (pre-show cabaret at 7:15pm). Through May 18. Dan Harder’s film noir-inspired detective tale premieres at the Marsh Berkeley.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison, Berk; $29-77. Tue, Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat and May 23, 2pm; no show May 24); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2). Through May 26. Mark Wing-Davey directs Berkeley Rep’s take on the Bard.


Simon Amstell Brava Theater, 2781 24th St, SF; Sat/4, 8 and 10pm. $31. The British comedian performs.

“Baasics.3: The Deep End” ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; Mon/6, 7pm. Free (limited seating). Bay Area Art and Science Interdisciplinary Collaborative Sessions produces its third program, featuring artists and scientists discussing and presenting, via artistic methods, various neurodiversities.

“Baile en la Calle: The Mural Dances” Brava Theater, 2781 24th St, SF; Sun/5, 11:30am, 12:15pm, 1pm, and 1:45pm. Free. Four free dance performances in a variety of styles, presented in front of five Mission District murals. Guided walking tours start at Brava.

“Bound for Glory” Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; Sat/4, 5pm; Sun/5, 3pm; May 10, 7:30pm; May 11, 2pm. $8-50. Marsh Youth Theater’s MainStage Performance Ensemble presents a musical (written by the ensemble with director Lisa Quoresimo) about a Dust Bowl-era family.

“Cabaret Showcase Showdown: Best Female Crooner” Martuni’s, 4 Valencia, SF; (415) 241-0205. Sun/5, 7pm. $7. With guest judge Linda Kosut and guest entertainer Sabrina Chap.

Caroline Lugo and Carolé Acuña’s Ballet Flamenco Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; Sat, 6:15pm. Through May 18. $15-19. Flamenco performance by the mother-daughter dance company, featuring live musicians.

“Comedy Stars Showcase” Neck of the Woods, 406 Clement, SF; Tue/7, 8pm. $10. With host Danny Dechi and guests Bobby Salem, Charlie Ballard, and more.

Company C Contemporary Ballet Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; Thu/2-Sat/4, 8pm. $23-45. Also May 9-11, 8pm; May 12, 1pm, Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic, Walnut Creek; The company’s spring program features Natoma, a world premiere by Company C dancer David von Ligon.

Hope Mohr Dance ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; Fri/3-Sat/4, 8pm; Sun/5, 2pm. $20-30. The company presents its sixth home season, including the world premiere of Hope Mohr’s Failure of the Sign is the Sign.

Kunst-Stoff Dance Company Old Mint, 88 Fifth St, SF; Wed/1-Thu/2, 7pm, 7:40pm, and 8:20pm. Free. Yannis Adoniou and company celebrate 15 years of Kunst-Stoff with the world premiere of Rapport, presented at the historic Old Mint Building.

“May Day 2013” CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; Fri/3-Sun/5, 8pm. $35-5000. Three nights of performances benefit CounterPULSE. The line-up includes Keith Hennessy, Sean Dorsey, Jess Curtis/Gravity, DavEnd, Marc Bamutho Joseph, Monique Jenkinson, and more.

“Mission Position Live” Cinecave, 1034 Valencia, SF; Thu, 8pm. Ongoing. $10. Stand-up comedy with rotating performers.

“Mutiny Radio Comedy Showcase” Mutiny Radio, 2781 21st St, SF; Fri/3, 8:30pm. $5-20. Podcast Pamtastic’s Comedy Clubhouse presents this showcase of local comics.

“The News” SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan, SF; Tue/7, 7:30pm. $5. This month’s installment in the new and experimental performance series previews four shows from the upcoming National Queer Arts Festival.

Paul Taylor Dance Company Lam Research Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF; Wed/1-Sat/4, 8pm; Sun/5, 2pm. $35-60. Local premieres include Kith and Kin, To Make Crops Grow, and The Uncommitted.

“Picklewater Clown Cabaret Benefit for the Medical Clown Project” Stage Werx Theatre, 446 Valencia, SF; Mon/6, 8pm. $25. Picklewater Clown Cabaret performs to raise money for an ongoing project providing therapeutic clowning for adult and pediatric patients in Bay Area hospitals.

Red Hots Burlesque El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; Wed, 7:30-9pm. Ongoing. $5-10. Come for the burlesque show, stay for OMG! Karaoke starting at 8pm (no cover for karaoke).

“Rotunda Dance Series: Chitresh Das Dance Company” San Francisco City Hall, Grove at Van Ness, SF; Fri/3, noon. Free. Free performance by the acclaimed Kathak dance troupe under the rotunda at City Hall.

San Francisco Ballet War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness, SF; Fri-Sat, Tue/7, and May 9, 8pm (also May 11, 2pm); Sun, 2pm; May 8, 7:30pm. Through May 12. $45-250. Performing the US premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella.

“San Francisco Magic Parlor” Chancellor Hotel Union Square, 433 Powell, SF; Thu-Sat, 8pm. Ongoing. $40. Magic vignettes with conjurer and storyteller Walt Anthony.

“A Spaghetti Western” Stage Werx Theatre, 446 Valencia, SF; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm). Through May 11. $15-20. ClownSnotBombs performs a circus adventure about pasta and the Wild West.

“Union Square Live” Union Square, between Post, Geary, Powell, and Stockton, SF; Through Oct 9. Free. Music, dance, circus arts, film, and more; dates and times vary, so check website for the latest.

“Yerba Buena Gardens Festival” Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission between 3rd and 4th Sts, SF; Through Oct 15. Free. This week: Anna Halprin’s Planetary Dance (Sun/5, 2-3pm).


Gamelan Sekar Jaya Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College, Berk; Sun/5, 7:30pm. $10-20. Music and dance of Bali, featuring the world premiere of Warna.

“Les 7 Doigts de la Main” Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, Bancroft at Telegraph, Berk; Fri/3, 8pm; Sat/4, 2pm; Sun/5, 3pm. $22-52. Canada’s nouveau circus troupe performs.

“Swearing in English: Tall Tales at Shotgun” Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; Mon/6, June 3, and June 17, 8pm. $15. Shotgun Cabaret presents John Mercer in a series of three stranger-than-fiction dramatic readings. *





May Day immigrant rights march 24th and Mission, SF. 3pm march, 5pm rally, free. The San Francisco Bay Coalition for Immigrant Justice invites all to join this year’s May Day immigrant rights march, convened to urge Congressional representatives to fight for improvements to the recently unveiled federal immigration reform proposal bill. The march will begin at 24th and Mission and proceed to Civic Center for a 5pm rally.


May Day celebration 518 Valencia, SF. 3-8pm, free. After the May Day marches and rallies have come to an end, head over to the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics for a celebration of international worker solidarity, featuring a theater performance on the history of May Day by the Shaping SF Players on the history of Mayday, live screen printing, Cumbia beats, Aztec dance, protest art, sangria and beer.


Movies that motivate change The New Parkway Theater, 474 24th St, Oakl. (510) 568-0702 6:30pm, $15–$100. In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Rose Foundation, attend this party and film festival and enjoy beer, wine, a silent auction, and four film screenings. Featuring Trash, a documentary exploration of global waste; 16 Seeds, a film highlighting the role of people of color in the Bay Area food justice movement; A Fierce Green Fire (Act 2), documenting the environmental battle over Love Canal, and a film about the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment.


Justice for Tristan art opening La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck, Berkl. 7pm, free. This art opening will feature photos and art by Tristan Anderson, an activist who sustained a serious injury when he was struck with a teargas canister fired by the Israeli Defense Forces in 2009. Anderson’s art will be set to the sounds of 40 Thieves’ revolutionary hip hop, Nepantler@s’ queer Chicano punk, and more. Free Food Not Bombs dinner at the Long Haul, across the street, at 5:30pm before the program.


Debating “sustainable capitalism” Commonwealth Club, 595 Market, SF. 5:30pm, $20. As a consumer, how do you know if a product billed as eco-friendly is the genuine article, or just greenwashing? Join Aron Cramer, CEO of Business for Social Responsibility, and Andrea Thomas of Walmart for an intriguing discussion on “the promise and perils of a move toward so-called sustainable capitalism.”


Panel: Communities doing it for themselves RallyPad, 144 2nd St, SF. 6pm, free. Join the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Social Enterprise Alliance for “Communities Doing it for Themselves,” a look at how UK community activists are utilizing “creative finance” to invest in local communities. Hear from panelists Jim Brown, of Community Shares; John Avalos, SF District 11 Supervisor; Charlie Sciammas of PODER and others for an exploration of how these strategies could be used by US social activists and entrepreneurs.

Where is Occupy SF now?


On the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, Occupy San Francisco also celebrated its birthday.

Demonstrations throughout the day Sept. 17, focusing on a variety of topics, converged at 5pm at 555 California, Bank of America’s west coast headquarters. A lively march of about 600 became a street festival down the block. There, protesters stopped for a circus of birthday activities. In one corner, people saddled by debt wrote their debt information on pieces of paper, explained their situations to the crowd, and dropped the papers into a trash can for a symbolic burning. One person also burned cash. “Hell no, we won’t pay,” the crowd chanted.

A few feet over, protesters painted the street with a bright yellow sun declaring “democracy not debt.” Volunteers then fed a free meal to the hundreds in attendance and wheeled in a video screen to watch some recaps of the year’s best moments. Around 8pm, the group left as peacefully as they had come.

In the darkness, a few hundred headed east on Market. When they arrived in Justin Herman Plaza– or Bradley Manning Plaza, as Occupy SF has christened it, in honor of the whistle blowing soldier- a few police stood guard around the perimeter. Undeterred, protesters walked in, and shouts of “happy birthday” gave way to “welcome home.”

The birthday party continued with a night of music. Five tents were pitched, sleeping bags were brought out. Police vehicles carrying truckloads of barricades drove by, but police told protesters they would have to leave the park by 6am, the hour the park opens.

30 or 40 spent the night. In the morning police came back. As ukelele and drums continued to play, tents were dutifully broken down. A few went back to sleep.

Video by Eric Louie

Last fall, Occupy SF could basically be found here. The camp was at Justin Herman Plaza. The ever-expanding list of working groups sometimes met somewhere else, but Occupy was at camp. But after a series of police raids, from Oct. 5 to the raid that finally brought the camp down in December, this camp was no more.

Now, Occupy SF is found all over the place.

As longtime Occupy SF activist Vi Huynh said while celebrating the anniversary: “I think it’s good to honor these milestones because, unlike the mainstream media would have us believe, we haven’t gone away. We’re not dying either. They’re writing our obituaries, but we’re very much alive. And we’re doing things every day.”

Here’s an uncomprehensive list of active groups from Occupy in San Francisco.

101 Market. This is the old camp of Occupy, “re-occupied” in February in response to a national call. At least 30 sleep there every night, and the camp is a veritable fortress of furniture and belongings. They’re mere existence is a refusal to humor the concept of private property. General Assembly meetings occur at 101 Market Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm.

Action Council. Action Council is a forum meant to connect Occupy with unions, non-profits, and community groups. They played a big role in planning demonstrations like the Jan. 20 shutdown of the financial district and the May Day solidarity demonstrations. Action Council meets weekly, Sundays at 2pm at Unite Here headquarters, 215 Golden Gate Ave.

All Streets Yoga. Since last winter, All Streets Yoga, formerly known as Decolonize Yoga, has been transforming part of the sidewalk at the 16th and Mission BART station into a yoga studio free for all. Volunteer yoga teachers lay out rugs and lead personalized yoga sessions for anyone who chooses to join. They transform space and creating calm in the busy city landscape. Join them Fridays 5-7pm.

Community Not Commodity. Also known as Bay Occupride, this group formed to protest commercialization of the Pride Parade. On the Sept. 17 anniversary they did a march on the Castro banks and a sit-in to protest sit-lie at Harvey Milk Plaza. CNC describes itself as “a collective assembly of queer/trans-focused community groups with established reputations in the Bay Area that have come together to strengthen and unify our diverse communities. We have come together to confront the 1% within our movement. We work for complete liberation of queer and trans people!” They meet Sundays at noon at Muddy Waters Café, 521 Valencia. See more at

Direct Action working group. Direct action is a central tenant of Occupy. It means taking action to prevent something bad or create something good without permission or help of those with political power. In a 1912 essay titled Direct Action, Voltairine de Cleyre cited the Boston Tea Party as an example and wrote that “Every person who ever had a plan to do anything, and went and did it, or who laid his plan before others, and won their co-operation to do it with him, without going to external authorities to please do the thing for them, was a direct actionist. All co-operative experiments are essentially direct action.” The direct action working group meets Wednesdays, 6pm, at the Redstone Building at 2940 16th Street.

Environmental Justice working group. The environmental justice working group keeps the pressure on the corporations that exploit the planet. They’ve protested hydraulic fracturing and the nuclear industry. They meet Tuesdays at 4pm at 101 Market.

Food bank of America. Occupy SF set up the first Food Bank of America to feed thousands of hungry protesters and passers-by on Jan. 20. A Market Street Bank of America branch locked its doors when volunteers set up a food table and passed out hot meals. Now, Food Bank of America continues in front of the mega-bank’s 23rd and Mission branch, where volunteers pass out produce, mostly donated from farmers’ markets, along with literature on switching to credit unions. They’re usually there Thursdays 5-6pm.

Ideological Liberation working group. This working group has produced pamphlets explaining Occupy, trading cards of especially greedy bankers, and postcards summarizing issues like the foreclosure crisis and the National Defense Authorization Act. They also created the Occupy SF Declaration. Brainstorm and write with them on Tuesdays, 7:30-9pm, at the decidedly ideologically un-liberated meeting spot of the Starbucks at 27 Drumm.

Occupy Bay Area United. Occupy Bay Area United spent the night outside 555 California on the eve of the Occupy SF anniversary, an occupation complete with tents and signs. They are “committed to non-violent direct action.” They meet on Sundays, 5-7pm, and post meeting locations on their website,

Occupy Bernal. This neighborhood-based group is largely considered one of the most effective and desperately needed parts of the Occupy movement in San Francisco. Occupy Bernal is in the business of stopping foreclosures and evictions. “Since January no one we worked with has had an auction. People we work with who already had auctions, we’re stopping their evictions. We’ve stopped six of them so far. So we’re almost done with all the evictions, and we can go back to just stopping the auctions. We have 60 people in line to get loan modifications from Wells,” said Occupy Bernal organizer Buck Bagot. On the anniversary, Occupy Bernal hosted a rally highlighting the disproportionate effects of the foreclosure crisis and veterans and elderly and disabled people. “There were about 100 of us at the protest and five people, all over 80, veterans who are all at risk of losing their homes because they don’t have very much income,” said Bagot. Occupy Bernal meets 7-9pm on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center at 515 Cortland Ave. See for more information.

Occupy Forum. Occupy Forum started up in early June in the Women’s Building, and has since moved to Justin Herman Plaza. The well-attended forums, usually around 70 people, are a time to discuss issues that concern people in Occupy. From the beginning Occupy has been said to have “no focus”– maybe that’s because those involved saw that everything from greedy banks to income inequality to homelessness to discrimination in loans to healthcare to racism to wars were all connected. The forum is a chance to focus in on a different topic every week. Check them out Mondays at 6pm at Justin Herman Plaza, at Market and Embarcadero.

Occupy the Richmond. A philosophical Occupy. If you’ve ever gotten sick of decrying problems in society and yearned to discuss creative solutions, Occupy the Richmond may be your cup of tea. A philosophical Occupy. Saturdays at 4pm, Occupy the Richmond gets together at 11th Ave. in Mountain Lake Park “to talk about what kind of society we want to organize together,” according to Occupy the Richmond participant Alex Zane. “Occupy opens up the possibility for talking about that. Otherwise, people would be stuck behind their screens freaking out about what kind of society we should organize. We should get together and talk with real, living people about how we’re supposed to reorganize our society,” said Zane.

Outreach working group. A group that spreads the word about Occupy and speaks with people and community organizations about working together. They meet Wednesdays at 7pm at One Rincon Center, also known as 121 Spear.

This article has been corrected. Bradley Manning served as a soldier in the Army, not a marine




Bernal Heights outdoor cinema Roccapulco Supper Club, 3140 Mission, SF; 7pm, $10 suggested donation. The first of five nights of film screenings in Bernal Heights. At this kickoff party, enjoy drinks, food and music from the Bernal Jazz Quintet before a lineup of short films celebrating community and organizing in the Bay Area. Films include Berkeley High School students on heritage and identity, "Occupy the Auctions Dance Party!" in which Occupy Bernal and ACCE stop evictions on the steps of City Hall, and a tour of Alemany Farm (also the beneficiary of the event’s ticket price), among others. The event also includes the announcement of winners of the Best of Bernal and Spirit of Bernal Awards and the first-year recipients of the Mauricio Vela Youth Film Scholarship.

Occupy, the state of the movement Mediterranean Café, 2475 Telegraph, Berk; 7-10pm, free. Einar Stensson, a sociologist at Stockholm University and activist at Occupy Stockholm during the fall of 2011, studied Occupy Oakland for two months. Why did the movement start and spread so quickly around the globe? How is Occupy organized? Who matters in the movement and why? What is the future of Occupy? Come hear his perspectives on where Occupy is, locally and internationally.


Occupy the Bay The 25th Street Collective, 477 25th St., Oakl; 6pm, $25. "This week in Oakland, California will go down as a watershed moment. People across America were disgusted by what they saw here. Average Americans trying to stand up and peacefully assemble, to be brutally savaged and attacked by the police department that they pay for." So said Michael Moore to a fired up crowd in the wake of the Oct. 26 Occupy Oakland eviction that rained tear gas and rubber bullets on demonstrators. This is just one of the many historic events caught on tape by filmmakers Jonathan Riley and Kevin Pina, whose documentary Occupy the Bay is screening around the Bay Area before it starts showing in film festivals. On Friday, stick around for special musical performances from Jabari Shaw, Shareef Ali and Super Natural.

Enemies of the state: In their own words Station 40, 3030B 16th St., SF; 7pm, free. After a year of Occupy and years more of struggle by people who are not down with the state, there are a lot of people in jail and prison. At this event, organizers will read writing from those locked up. Poems and statements from Truth and Kali of Occupy Oakland and a statement from Jesse Nesbitt, the May Day brick-thrower we profiled ("Who is the Brick Thrower?" 5/8/12). As the event description says, "Any effort at anti-repression in the face of lengthy prison terms must be aimed at bringing down separation at all costs." Come fight the separation and connect.

Original Plumbing birthday celebration Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF; 10pm, $3-6. Original Plumbing, the trans male quarterly magazine, is throwing a party celebrating its third year on this planet. It now lives in the Brooklyn part of the planet, but it all started in San Francisco, and they’re coming back here to party. "We feel that there is no single way to sum up what it means to be a trans man because we each have different beliefs, life experiences, and relationships to our own bodies," say the organizers, and they started the magazine to document this diversity of experiences. Celebrate with the editors Amos Mac and Rocco Katastrophe, and performances by Rocco Katastrophe with special guests Billie Elizabeth, Nicky Click & Jenna Riot. Birthday cupcakes available!


Rally to save City College City Hall steps, 1 Polk, SF; 12pm, free. A rally in support of Prop A, the local ballot measure that would create a parcel tax for revenue to City College of San Francisco. "If City College is to survive and maintain accessibility, educational quality and the mission of serving low-income and underrepresented students with the best educators and staff, we must pass Prop A," say organizers of the rally, which include students, teachers, staff and supporters.




Wednesday 29

Bernal Heights outdoor cinema Roccapulco Supper Club, 3140 Mission, SF; 7pm, $10 suggested donation. The first of five nights of film screenings in Bernal Heights. At this kickoff party, enjoy drinks, food and music from the Bernal Jazz Quintet before a lineup of short films celebrating community and organizing in the Bay Area. Films include Berkeley High School students on heritage and identity, “Occupy the Auctions Dance Party!” in which Occupy Bernal and ACCE stop evictions on the steps of City Hall, and a tour of Alemany Farm (also the beneficiary of the event’s ticket price), among others. The event also includes the announcement of winners of the Best of Bernal and Spirit of Bernal Awards and the first-year recipients of the Mauricio Vela Youth Film Scholarship.

Occupy, the state of the movement Mediterranean Café, 2475 Telegraph, Berk; 7-10pm, free. Einar Stensson, a sociologist at Stockholm University and activist at Occupy Stockholm during the fall of 2011, studied Occupy Oakland for two months. Why did the movement start and spread so quickly around the globe? How is Occupy organized? Who matters in the movement and why? What is the future of Occupy? Come hear his perspectives on where Occupy is, locally and internationally.

Friday 31

Occupy the Bay The 25th Street Collective, 477 25th St., Oakl; 6pm, $25. “This week in Oakland, California will go down as a watershed moment. People across America were disgusted by what they saw here. Average Americans trying to stand up and peacefully assemble, to be brutally savaged and attacked by the police department that they pay for.” So said Michael Moore to a fired up crowd in the wake of the Oct. 26 Occupy Oakland eviction that rained tear gas and rubber bullets on demonstrators. This is just one of the many historic events caught on tape by filmmakers Jonathan Riley and Kevin Pina, whose documentary Occupy the Bay is screening around the Bay Area before it starts showing in film festivals. On Friday, stick around for special musical performances from Jabari Shaw, Shareef Ali and Super Natural.

Enemies of the state: In their own words Station 40, 3030B 16th St., SF; 7pm, free. After a year of Occupy and years more of struggle by people who are not down with the state, there are a lot of people in jail and prison. At this event, organizers will read writing from those locked up. Poems and statements from Truth and Kali of Occupy Oakland and a statement from Jesse Nesbitt, the May Day brick-thrower we profiled (“Who is the Brick Thrower?” 5/8/12). As the event description says, “Any effort at anti-repression in the face of lengthy prison terms must be aimed at bringing down separation at all costs.” Come fight the separation and connect.

Original Plumbing birthday celebration Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF; 10pm, $3-6. Original Plumbing, the trans male quarterly magazine, is throwing a party celebrating its third year on this planet. It now lives in the Brooklyn part of the planet, but it all started in San Francisco, and they’re coming back here to party. “We feel that there is no single way to sum up what it means to be a trans man because we each have different beliefs, life experiences, and relationships to our own bodies,” say the organizers, and they started the magazine to document this diversity of experiences. Celebrate with the editors Amos Mac and Rocco Katastrophe, and performances by Rocco Katastrophe with special guests Billie Elizabeth, Nicky Click & Jenna Riot. Birthday cupcakes available!

Tuesday 4

Rally to save City College City Hall steps, 1 Polk, SF; 12pm, free. A rally in support of Prop A, the local ballot measure that would create a parcel tax for revenue to City College of San Francisco. “If City College is to survive and maintain accessibility, educational quality and the mission of serving low-income and underrepresented students with the best educators and staff, we must pass Prop A,” say organizers of the rally, which include students, teachers, staff and supporters.

The Performant: Howard’s End


While the Performant is off hugging trees in Oregon, please enjoy this series of interviews with the curators of three innovative performance spaces.

After five years of making the address 975 Howard synonymous with emergent dance, queer, and fringe artists, Joe Landini has packed up The Garage and relocated it further down SOMA way. Now tucked in an industrial zone next to an automotive repair shop, The Garage’s new location at 715 Bryant might lack the allure of being a hidden gem on ramshackle Howard Street, but has the distinct advantage of having fewer neighbors to annoy, a consideration no low-budget performance space can afford to completely ignore. Particularly one as active and prolific as The Garage—which has hosted over 1000 performances for some 50,000 people during its five-year tenure.

“We are awful neighbors!” Landini admits when I swing by to check out the new digs.

“We are loud. We host 120 choreographers a year, 230 shows a year, that’s a lot of music to listen to.” After looking around the Central Market area for three years without finding a space that was both affordable and allowed for public assembly, Landini set his sights on the section of SOMA he knew to have some of the lowest rental rates in the area yet was still mostly accessible via public transportation—a consideration for many of his performers and audiences.
After a cacophonous May Day parade from Howard Street to Bryant, led by a merry conglomerate of performers — familiar faces from The Offcenter and Garage performance series such as RAW and AIRspace — The Garage opened back up for business just 24 hours later. The space is still a work-in-progress a few weeks later (aren’t all moving projects?), but its current bare bones state will not seem unfamiliar to its fans (makeshift risers, a table over to the side for the board operator, minimal but effective lighting). What’s most important, from Landini’s POV is that they are finally ADA compliant, and they have repainted the front door red: “theatre’s love tradition.”

In addition to moving into a new physical space, The Garage is occupying a new psychic space, expanding its definition of incubation, by helping its emerging artists connect to spaces where they can create work for larger audiences. Recently, six Garage artists dubbed The WERK Collective, participated in a joint mentorship program between The Garage and ODC <>, culminating in a weekend of performance at ODC, the next step up the narrow ladder of professional possibility that defines the San Francisco Bay Area dance community.

“We’re the only free space in the city now and that does attract a very specific group of broke artists,” Joe muses. “We’ve been so lucky to have some of those artists stay with us for the whole five years, and that’s where the partnership with ODC came up, because I had to come up with a way to keep them involved, and they had clearly outgrown the space…so hopefully that’s going to be a model for the future, an artist could start here and then work their way into ODC (which is) pretty well-organized in terms of where they want their artists to go….(ODC Director) Christy Bolingbroke is very sharp, and she has a real clear understanding of the national profile, and what’s happening nationally.”

What has also changed for Landini is a deeper understanding of The Garage’s overall mission and impact on its core community.

“The old space was such a lark…we threw a lot of mud at a lot of walls and some stuff stuck, but that’s not going to work here…..we’re going to have to become a really shrewd organization. I didn’t really have a sense of the importance of the work we were doing. I mean I kind of knew in the back of my mind, because so many people were coming through…and that community rallied to move into this space…they really really got behind it.”

Occupy Caravan takes off to the National Gathering


This looks familiar!

Jan. 17, we proposed Occupy Nation, an idea that those energized and organized by Occupy come together on July 4, 2012 for a national gathering to get some planning done. We also proposed that the journey across the US be a part of the action, and that people get together in vans for a freedom-ride inspired experience. Well, it’s happening- although, of course, it wasn’t all our idea. But they are using our cover art!

The Occupy Caravan is an ever-expanding crew of people getting together for a two-week journey across the US. There are two starting points, Los Angeles and San Francisco- and the San Francisco caravan is taking off June 11. The caravans will stop at Occupy sites along the way for protests, education and entertainment, before arriving in Philadelphia for the June 30 Occupy National Gathering.

The poster declares, “bring tents!” But according to an Occupy Caravan organizer known as Buddy, sleeping arrangements that won’t risk police meddling are planned at every stop.

“We have a bunch of secure and fun locations- there’s a slumber party at one, a march and then staying at a church at another, a supporter’s camp ground where we can park the RVs,” said Buddy.

“We’re not risking people getting arrested,” he said. “Everything is legal and nonviolent.”

In theory, anyone who wants to can show up, on foot or with a vehicle, and join the caravan. But if you want to secure a spot, according to Buddy, it’s best to sign up online beforehand.

“We’re getting 30 to 50 calls and emails a day about rides,” Buddy told me of the last chaotic week before the trip launches.

The National Gathering isn’t the only nationwide Occupy plan for this summer. It isn’t the only one in Philadelphia either. Or for the July 4 weekend. There’s also the 99 Percent Declaration, billed as a “Continental Congress 2.0”

It looks like these big get-togethers are part of the form Occupy will take this summer. What with a big and chaotic May Day, an even more tumultuous anti-Nato convergence in Chicago, and continuing home defenses, occupations of public spaces, and innumerable local actions across the country, the Occupy movement is in a very different state than it was in the winter when the Gathering and the Caravan were in their beginning planning stages.

“The movement has grown,” Buddy told me. “It’s less than a year old. It was an infant early on, and grew very quickly, but its getting stronger. We’re going back to the simply core message of economic equality and justice.”

After the National Gathering, the caravan will join the Occupy Guitarmy for its “99 Mile March” to New York. The Guitarmy is a travelling group of musicians that bills itself as “the world’s first open source band,” best known for its march on May 1 in New York City, led by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.

As we said in the Occupy America proposal: “The important thing is to let this genie out of the bottle, to move Occupy into the next level of politics, to use a convention, rally, and national event to reassert the power of the people to control our political and economic institutions — and to change or abolish them as we see fit.” One thing is clear: Occupy hasn’t given up yet.

Tax equity


A broad consensus in San Francisco supports reforming the city’s business-tax structure by replacing the payroll tax with a gross receipts tax through a November ballot measure. But the devil is in the details of how individual tax bills are affected, which has divided the business community and given a coalition of labor and progressives the opportunity to overcome the insistence by Mayor Ed Lee and other pro-business moderates that any change be revenue-neutral.

Service Employees International Union Local 1021, San Francisco’s biggest city employee union, last month launched a campaign demanding that the measure increase city revenue, setting a goal of at least $50 million, which represents the amount the city has lost annually since 2001 when 52 large downtown corporations sued to overturn the last gross receipts tax. The union is threatening to place a rival measure on the fall ballot.

“This call for it to be revenue-neutral didn’t make a lot of sense given all the reductions in city services in recent years,” said Chris Daly, the union’s interim political director. “It’s fair to at least get the money back that we lost in 2001.”

The union and the city recently agreed on a new contract that avoids more of the salary cuts that SEIU members have taken in recent years, but workers could still face layoffs under a new city budget that Lee is scheduled to introduce June 1. Lee, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, and business leaders working on the tax-reform proposal have until June 12 to introduce their ballot measure.

But they don’t yet have an agreement on what the measure should look like — largely because the technology sector (led by billionaire venture capitalist Ron Conway, the biggest fundraiser for Lee’s mayoral campaign last year), the traditional businesses represented by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and the small business community are pushing different interests and priorities.

“The technology industry has to realize they have a tax obligation like any member of the business community does,” Jim Lazarus, the Chamber’s vice president for public policy, told us.

Conway is reportedly using his influence on Lee to push for a model that keeps taxes low for tech companies — even if that comes at the expense of other economic sectors, such as commercial real estate and big construction firms, which will likely see their tax obligations increase. Yet some Chamber counter-proposals could end up costing small businesses more money, creating a puzzle that has yet to be worked out.

But one thing is clear: The business leaders don’t want to see overall city revenue increase. “If there’s anything that is unifying in the business community is that it’s revenue neutral,” small business advocate Scott Hauge told us. “We’re not going to increase revenues, that’s just a given, so if we have to do battle then so be it.”

SEIU and other members of progressive revenue coalition that has been strategizing in recent weeks are hoping to exploit the divisions in the business community and arrive at a compromise that increases revenue, and if not then they say they’re willing to go to the ballot with a rival measure.

“We’re working on trying to recover what we lost in the 2001 settlement and then some,” Sup. John Avalos, who has been working with the progressive coalition, told us. “We have to have something going to the ballot that is revenue generating.”




For labor and progressives, this is an equity issue. Workers have been asked to give back money, year after year, despite the fact that big corporations have been doing well in recent years but haven’t contributed any of that wealth to the cash-strapped city. Labor leaders say that after they supported last year’s pension-reform measure, it’s time for the business community to support city services.

“When we talked about Prop C, we said if our members are doing this with our pensions now, we’ll see next year what businesses do with business tax,” said Larry Bradshaw, vice president of SEIU Local 1021. “Then we read about secret meetings where the labor movement was excluded from those talks.”

Anger over the “secret meetings” of business leaders that Lee assembled to craft the tax reform measure — meetings at which no labor leaders were included — helped inspire the fierce protest campaign that defined the SEIU’s recent contract negotiations.

In the first weeks of negotiations, workers were already up in arms. Protest marches at SF General Hospital and Laguna Honda Hospital brought hundreds of hospital workers to the streets. These hospitals serve some of the city’s poorest populations: Laguna Honda patients are mostly seniors on Medi-Cal and General is the main public hospital serving the city’s poor.

On April 5, city workers got creative with a street theater protest that involved six-story projections on the iconic Hobart Building. Protesters dressed as rich CEOs and handed out thank-you cards to commuters at the Montgomery transit station. SEIU’s “The City We Need, Not Downtown Greed” campaign included a website (, slick video, and direct mailers portraying CEOs as panhandlers on the street asking city residents, “Can you spare a tax break?”

The most dramatic civil disobedience came on April 18, when more than 1,000 workers rallied outside City Hall — along with several progressive supervisors — and then marched to Van Ness and Market. Protesters blocked the street, resulting in 23 arrests. At that point, increases in health care cuts and pay cuts to city workers were still on the table.

That was followed the next week by hundreds of workers staging noisy demonstrations in City Hall, and then again on May Day when SEIU workers were well represented in actions that took over parts of the Financial District.

In the end, the demands of union representatives were met in the contract agreement. Health care cost increases and pay cuts were eliminated, and a 3 percent pay raise will kick in during the two-year contract’s second year, a deal overwhelmingly approved by union members. Labor leaders hope to use that momentum to force a deal with the Mayor’s Office on the tax reform measure — which some sources say is possible. Otherwise, they say the campaign will continue.

“We may end up on the streets gathering signatures soon,” Daly said. “We need to figure it out in the next few weeks.”




The Controller’s Office released a report on May 10 that made the case for switching to a gross receipts tax and summed up the business community’s meetings, and the report was the subject of a joint statement put out by Lee and Chiu. “After months of thorough analysis, economic modeling and inclusive outreach to our City’s diverse business community, the City Controller and City Economist have produced a report that evaluates a gross receipts tax, a promising alternative to our current payroll tax, which punishes companies for growing and creating new jobs in our City'” the statement said. “Unlike our current payroll tax, a gross receipts tax would deliver stable and growing revenue to fund vital city services, while promoting job growth and continued economic recovery for San Francisco.”

Daly and Avalos say progressives agree that a gross receipts tax would probably be better than the payroll tax, and they say the controller’s report lays out a good analysis and framework for the discussions to come. But despite its detailed look at who the winners and losers in the tax reform might be, Daly said, “We haven’t seen an actual proposal yet.”

Lazarus made a similar statement: “Nobody likes the payroll tax, but the devil is in the details.”

But it’s clear some businesses those with high gross receipts but low payrolls — would pay more taxes. For example, the finance, insurance, and real estate sector now pays about 16 percent of the $410 million the city collects in payroll taxes. That would go up to about 21 percent under a gross receipts tax.

“Several industries that could face higher taxes under the proposal, such as commercial real estate, large retailers, and large construction firms, felt the increase was too sharp,” the report said under the heading of “Policy Issues Arising From Meetings with Businesses.”

The report highlighted how the change would broaden the tax base. Only about 7,500 businesses now pay the payroll tax (others are either too small or are exempt from local taxation, such as banks), whereas 33,500 companies would pay the gross receipts tax, which the report identified as another issue to be resolved.

“While some businesses appreciated the base-broadening aspect of the gross receipts proposal, others felt that too many small businesses were being brought into the Gross Receipts tax,” the report said. Hauge also told us that he fears a tax increase on commercial real estate firms could be passed on to small businesses in the form of higher rents. “I don’t want to see the business community split,” Hauge said, although it’s beginning to look like that might be unavoidable. The big question now is whether progressives and labor can find any allies in this messy situation, and whether they’ll be able to agree on a compromise measure that all sides say is preferable to competing measures.

Love on wheels


In honor of our annual bike issue, we wanted to highlight a few of the free-wheeling people that polished our spokes this year. Keep on pumpin’!


On a family-oriented strip of Cortland Avenue perched halfway up the precipitous heights of Bernal Hill, husband-wife team Karen Weiner and Brett Thurber have invested their all in an enterprise some would deem experimental: the first electric bike shop in San Francisco.

Photo by Mirissa Neff

“San Francisco is really the perfect place for these bikes,” said Thurber when we went on a test ride with him and Weiner around the city. Iron-thighed fixie fans notwithstanding, he’s right — there are some neighborhoods in this city where the average bear will only be able to bring a bike if he or she pushes it up the final blocks of incline. For older bikers, the e-bikes (as they are lovingly dubbed by their adherents) make it possible to zip around town, car and fancy-free. Plus, they are disturbingly fun — when else can you cruise up Twin Peaks and still be breathing easy when you reach that panoramic view?

Other stores around town do sell certain models of e-bikes, but Thurber and Weiner’s new New Wheel is the first place to specialize in them. It stocks European and Canadian-made models in addition to retrofitting kits so that normie bikes can be tricked out with motors capable of doubling one’s pedaling power.

Thurber says business has been steadily growing, and that he’s noticed that the electric bike is not a purchase taken lightly by consumers — often times a customer will come by the store six or seven times before taking that heady ride into pedal power (perhaps indicative of the bikes’ spendy pricetags.)

“People are really making this mindful shift instead of listening to us be like ‘just do it,'” says the man who hopes to be SF’s e-bike proselytizer. (Caitlin Donohue)

New Wheel, 420 Cortland, SF. (415) 524-7362,



Twenty years ago, Critical Mass began demonstrating the power and potential of mass bike rides to make a political statement by seizing space from cars and confounding the authorities. Almost 10 years ago, anti-war cyclists in San Francisco borrowed Critical Mass tactics to interfere with business as usual on daily Bikes Not Bombs rides that also proved effective and hard to police. Today, as the tides of protest again rise with the Occupy Wall Street and related movements, Paul Jordan and other founders of the new collective SF Bike Cavalry ( are reviving and expanding the concept.

Photo by Tim Daw

“It’s all kinda new, definitely more of a buzzword at this point,” Jordan, a 38-year-old painting contractor, said when we caught up with him and his cycling comrades during last week’s May Day marches. “But the idea is to use bicycles for activism.”

As they demonstrated on May Day, even a dozen or so cyclists can send loud messages to passersby or nimbly create opportunities for marchers to safely seize the streets, all while riding more-or-less legally. And they can use whimsy — silly costumes, funny signs, big smiles, blowing bubbles — to defuse any tensions.

“It’s hard to be mad when you’re stuck in traffic if you see bubbles,” Jordan said as he reloaded the bubble machine on the back of his bike. “I see bubbles as a very good activist tool.”

The Cavalry is a fairly new venture, which Jordan first displayed for big Jan. 20 protests, but he sees it as something with enormous potential: “We want to figure out how to grow this bigger.” (Steven T. Jones)


Sometimes it seems like the Mission has as many bike shops as taquerias, but the neighborhoods east of Potrero lacks the same double-wheelin’ bounty. Sam Kroyer and Renita Taylor met in their Bernal Heights neighborhood, where Kroyer used to run a repair shop out of his garage. Taylor is an avid biker, and the two decided to meld their respective strengths — Kroyer’s mechanical prowess and Taylor’s business know-how — and create a service-oriented shop near Potrero Hill for every type of rider.

Photo by Mirissa Neff

“We’re really trying to make it for everybody, from entry-level commuter bikers to bikers with really crazy exotic $20,000+ bikes,” Kroyer says. Kroyer has 25 year of experience as a bike mechanic, and Taylor is a sharp businesswoman who spent several years working in the entertainment industry.

Roll SF seems like an outpost in an area not known, for now, as a cycling nexus, but its atmosphere is friendly and accessible. A long wooden table runs through the center of the shop, welcoming guests to sit down and stay awhile — to use the shop’s free wi-fi while they wait, watch and ask questions, or eat dinner. Kroyer provides you with his utmost attention and quickly diagnoses your bike. If it’s a fast fix, he’ll handle it promptly with the grace cultivated by years spent engaging with a multifaceted machine. “We’re trying to make sure you come away with a great experience — that you feel like you’ve really gotten something taken care of properly,” Kroyer says. (Mia Sullivan)

275 Rhode Island, SF. (415) 701-ROLL,



Are you on a motherfucking bike? Tell me you’re reading this on a motherfucking bike, doing the Tour de Fuck You. Sing with me, “No greenhouse gas! A tiny carbon footprint up your ass!” Then launch into the wickedest bike horn solo ever.

You know what I’m talking about. “Motherfucking Bike” by Sons of Science (, the profane viral hymn to SF peddlin’ that’s closing in on a million YouTube views and has been Tweeted liberally by the likes of Russell Crowe and Juliette Lewis. Sure it plays on every fixie hipster stereotype you can image — it’s the “Shit San Franciscans Say” for mutton-chopped, skinny-pantsed, non-fat latte-quaffing riders — but it’s pretty damn funny. (And catchy. It is maniacally catchy. So be warned.)

Sons of Science are a freewheeling trio: Ward Evans and John Benson, who direct for Sausage Films (, and Hector Perez, a.k.a. Horn Solo. “We’ve known each other for years and just recently decided to collaborate for fun, and it clicked. It was a great excuse to do a video. For this track we were also very lucky to feature Tim Brooks, formerly of the Young Offenders, who plays the ‘Angry Commuter’. He brought a pantsload of energy and genuine cyclist cred,” Evan told me. Also featured: the guys from that delicious new MASH shop ( near Duboce Park.

When asked about his own motherfucking bike heroes, Evans replied, “A guy named Joff Summerfield rode a penny farthing around the globe. He’d be right up there.” (Marke B.)


Who is the brick thrower?


The brick-throwing man whose projectiles hit two protesters at the Occupy San Francisco takeover of a Turk Street building on May Day has helped spark intense internal debates in the movement about the use of violence.

But nobody has heard the alleged hurler’s side of the story.

Jesse Nesbitt, 34, was arrested on the scene, and is accused of felony assault, assault on a police officer, and vandalism. I interviewed Nesbitt in San Francisco County Jail May 3. He spoke of his associations with drug addicts and revolutionaries; his previous stints in jails, prisons and psych wards; and his countless arrests on the streets of San Francisco for illegal lodging.

What emerged was a picture of a homeless Army veteran who suffers from untreated mental illness and substance-abuse issues — someone who found a degree of help and solace in the Occupy movement but has never fully escaped his problems. His story is, unfortunately, not unusual — there are many thousands of vets who the system has utterly failed.

Nesbitt told me he was diagnosed as schizophrenic at 16. “From bad things happening, my mental illness has snowballed since then,” he explained.

Nesbitt said he grew up in the projects outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the 1980s. “It wasn’t too nice,” he explained. When he was 18, he joined the Army.

“I wanted to join the military all my life. That’s what I wanted to do,” he said. The schizophrenia could have stopped him — but “I lied my way in.”

His tour in Korea was during peace time, but he says he still saw combat. “We were supposed to be at peace with North Korea, in a ceasefire. But whenever they got a chance, they shot at us. And whenever we got a chance, we shot at them.

“It hardened my heart. And it gave me a sense of duty to uphold our Constitution.”

Nesbitt returned from South Korea in 1996. Afterward, “I hitchhiked from coast to coast twice. I got married three times. I have a kid in Pennsylvania. I went to jail in Pennsylvania for — being young and stupid,” he said.

Later in the interview, he expanded on his prison time in Pennsylvania. “I did four years and eight months for aggravated assault, theft, and possession of an instrument of crime,” said Nesbitt. “I also did time in Georgia for assault. And I did time in Alameda County for vandalism and weapons.”

In fact, as he tells it, Nesbitt’s time in Berkeley was spent mainly in jail, before he got involved with Occupy Berkeley.

“I don’t know how much time I did in total in Alameda County. I’d be in jail two, three weeks, get out five, six days, then get arrested again. That was from last April to July,” he says.

On the days when he was free, “I was doing what I normally do,” said Nesbitt. “I’d squat somewhere. In the daytime I’d panhandle, go to the library. I was doing a lot of drinking. Then I started getting arrested a lot when I started doing meth.”

That was his life before joining Occupy. “A friend of mine who was shooting heroin at the time said, let’s go join the revolution. It will help clean you up. It helped pull me out of a drug addiction and keep me healthy,” said Nesbitt.

But that wasn’t the only reason he joined.

“I’ve always had revolutionary beliefs,” he says. He spoke of his friends in Pittsburgh. They wouldn’t let him go the G20 protests in 2009, fearing he would be incited to violence.

“I’ve been involved with anarchists for a long time. They pointed out documentaries I should watch, things I should read,” said Nesbitt.

But the example he gave me isn’t your classic Emma Goldman. Nesbitt remembered “The Esoteric Agenda” — a conspiracy-theory film that connects stories about corporate greed with apocalyptic prophecies.

“The education was getting me ready for something,” he said.

At Occupy Berkeley, even while Nesbitt recovered from his meth addiction, he continued to live in a cycle of violence.

“It was in Berkeley out at the Occupy camp. I got into a fight with somebody, I was in a black out. It took six cops to hogtie 135-pound me, so I was talking shit. While I was hogtied, they dropped me on my head. I went from talking shit to unconscious. I slept for the next two weeks,” Nesbitt told me.

His involvement with Occupy San Francisco increased after the Occupy Berkeley encampment was taken down.

Occupy San Francisco, however, didn’t quite progress the way he had hoped. “When they started raiding us in December, I was hoping the numbers would go up. Instead they dwindled,” said Nesbitt.

He was part of a small group of people continuing the “occupation” tactic outside the Federal Reserve Building at 101 Market St. Back in the fall, that sidewalk was a spot where dozens of people held protest signs and meetings all day and many slept throughout the night. After a series of police raids, and as most of those organizing with Occupy moved on to different tactics and projects, some decided to remain there.

Even when the Justin Herman Plaza camp was in full functional form, it was derided as “nothing but a homeless camp.” There were homeless people there, but many found food and other resources, as well as security from both police and other people they feared on the street, leading many to devote themselves to the goals of the protest movement.

The 101 Market camp that emerged in February was mostly a homeless camp — and, although the people there remained fiercely political in their convictions, they certainly didn’t enjoy the safety that the Justin Herman camp once provided.

Nesbitt was one of those people. “The SFPD not letting us sleep, telling us sitting on cardboard was lodging, sitting under a blanket to stay warm was lodging, you can only take so much of it,” he said. “They slammed my head against the back of a paddy wagon last time they arrested me for sitting underneath a blanket.”

His story is not unusual.

“Veterans continue to lead the nation in homelessness,” explained Colleen Corliss, spokesperson for the veterans-aid nonprofit Swords to Plowshares. “There are a lot of factors at play. Those who go to war have a higher instance of mental illness and substance abuse, which ultimately can lead to a vicious cycle of homelessness,” she said. “Even if you serve during peace time, you can still have really traumatic experiences.”

Nesbitt’s experience with the city’s mental health facilities wasn’t enough to break this cycle. “I did get 5150-ed,” he said, describing the term for involuntary psychiatric commitment. “I was in the hospital less than 24 hours, they kicked me out.”

Why? “I threatened to kill a doctor,” said Nesbitt.

Nesbitt’s 24-hour stay was in the overburdened, short-staffed psych ward at San Francisco General Hospital. When the psych wards began closing beds in 2007, it was comprised of four units, each with 30 beds; it is now down to one unit, according to Ed Kinchley, a social worker in the medical emergency department at General.

There’s also a floor in the behavioral health center for psychiatric patients with 59 beds, but “they told the staff last week that they’re planning to close 29 of those beds.”

“Since [the beds] are full almost every day, the bar or the standard for who stays there or who goes in-patient is a lot higher than it used to be,” said Kinchley.

Whatever the reason, Nesbitt was not getting treatment the day of the alleged brick-throwing — and he was having problems. “I was getting an episode the day before it all happened,” he said. “I was afraid to go by myself to sleep because I was hearing voices. Normally those voices tell me to hurt people. I try to keep around people I love and trust that wouldn’t let me do anything.”

Mixed with his schizophrenia is a brand of Constitutionalism that’s not common on the left.

“When you join the military or the police department, you take an oath swearing to defend the United States Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” Nesbitt said. “Now they’re passing the NDAA, Patriot Act, and other bills I don’t know about. They’re intentionally taking away our constitutional rights. We’re supposed to defend those rights, not lie down and take it.

“I think Abraham Lincoln said, if the government betrays us, we’re supposed to take them out.” Nesbitt insists he’s “not a terrorist. No matter what they might say about me in the Chronicle or whatnot, I’m not a terrorist. What is he, then? “I’m a freedom fighter,” said Nesbitt. “I’m fighting for the freedom of everyone.”

Only real change can avert more conflict


This week’s May Day events brought together immigrant groups, labor unions, and activists with the Occupy movement to confront gross inequities in our economic and political systems. That’s a healthy democratic exercise, even if it sometimes provokes tense standoffs with police and property interests. But the day was marred by violence that didn’t need to happen, and that’s a dangerous situation that could only get worse.

The Oakland Police Department debuted new crowd control policies to manage marches of several thousand people, and there were some improvements over its previous “military-type responses” that have placed the OPD under the oversight of federal courts. For example, when the decision was made to clear Frank Ogawa Plaza around 8:30 p.m., police allowed escape routes (instead of using dangerous kettle-and-arrest tactics), clearly visible public information officers were available to answer questions, and people were allowed to return shortly thereafter.

“We’re not attempting to permanently clear the plaza, we just want things to settle down,” OPD spokesperson Robyn Clark told me at the scene.

But the OPD continues to provoke conflicts and mistrust with its confrontational tactics, even as it argues that such tactics are actually intended to improve its approach to handling large demonstrations. “Today’s strategy focused on swiftly addressing any criminal behavior that would damage property or jeopardize public or officer safety. Officers were able to identify specific individuals in the crowd committing unlawful acts and quickly arrest them so the demonstration could continue peacefully,” OPD wrote in press release late Tuesday night.

That sounds nice, but it’s only partially true, and the entire situation is a lot more complicated and volatile than that. Clark and witnesses told me at the scene that the dispersal order came after police charged into a crowd of several hundred, perhaps more than 1,000, to arrest someone with a stay-away order and were met with an angry reaction from the crowd.

What did they expect? The city decided to seek stay-away orders against many Occupy Oakland protesters – a barely constitutional act that only fans divisions between the city and protesters – and then to execute them at a time when elements of both sides were itching for a fight anyway. Perceptions become reality in a scene like that, which can quickly escalate out of control (which is what happened – almost all the property damage in Oakland occurred after the plaza was cleared by police).

“These pigs can’t wait to come in here and bust us up,” speaker Robbie Donohoe told the crowd shortly before the sound permit ended at 8 pm, warning people to leave soon is they didn’t want to assume the risk of a violent confrontation with police.

It wasn’t an unreasonable expectation after watching police decked out in riot gear, loaded down with tear gas canisters, and gathered around an armored vehicle with military-style LRAD sound weapon since mid-afternoon. Donohoe wasn’t advocating violence, but an important revolutionary and constitutional principle: the right to assemble and seek redress of our grievances.

“They didn’t have a permit in Egypt, they didn’t have a permit in Tunisia, and we don’t need a permit here! If you want to stay, you stay!” he said.

Many Americans share that viewpoint, and they’re frustrated that political corruption and economic exploitation have continued unabated since the Occupy Wall Street movement began almost eight months ago. And many young people – particularly the Black Bloc kids who show up with shields and weapons, ready to fight – are prepared to take those frustrations out in aggressive ways, as we saw Monday night during their rampage through the Mission District.

Witnesses and victims of that car- and storefront-smashing spree are understandably frustrated both with the perpetrators and the San Francisco Police Department, whose officers watched it happen and did nothing to stop it or apprehend those who did it. SFPD spokesperson Daryl Fong told us it just happened too quickly, with less than 20 officers on hand to deal with more than 150 vandals.

“Obviously, you have people with hammers, crowbars, and pipes engaged in this kind of act, with the number of officers involved, it was challenging and difficult to control,” he told us.

In both Oakland and San Francisco, the reasons for the escalation of violence were the same: police officer safety. That’s why OPD asserts the right to use overwhelming force against even the slightest provocation, and it’s why the SFPD says they could do nothing even when the Mission Police Station came under attack.

Now, I’m not going to second-guess these decisions by police, even though we should theoretically have more control over their actions than any of us do those of angry Black Bloc kids, although I do think both of these sides are looking for trouble and invested in the paradigm of violent conflict.

Rather, I think it’s time for our elected leaders, from Mayor Ed Lee to President Barack Obama, to stop giving lip service to supporting the goals and ideals of the Occupy movement and start taking concrete actions that will benefit the 99 percent and diffuse some of these tensions. This is dangerous game we’re all planning, and we’re teetering on the edge of real chaos that will be difficult to reel back in once it begins.

“We are not criminals. We are workers, we pay rent, we own homes,” Alicia Stanio, an immigrant and labor organizer for the Pacific Steel Casting Company, told a crowd of thousands that had gathered in San Antonio Park in Oakland, where three marches converged on their way to City Hall, carefully monitored by a phalanx of cops.

She and thousands like her didn’t march or speak or risk violence on May Day just because they like being in the streets. They’re desperate for change, real change, and it’s time that our leaders begin to deliver it before things really get out of hand in this country.


Shawn Gaynor contributed to this report.

Reflecting on violence at the SF Commune


Occupy San Francisco protesters entered Catholic Church-owned properties at 888 Turk last night. This is the same building that a similar group occupied April 1, in a peaceful action that lasted about 24 hours. 

The successful reentry was a testament to the spread of skills and cultures surrounding building takeovers by groups like Homes Not Jails. The resulting “rebirth of the SF Commune” was a mellow and pleasant event at first, as protesters on a march from the celebratory Peoples Street Festival joined in the commune. Some held back in the street while others entered the building in hopes of building a “community center”—most remained outside the building, enjoying a free meal cooked and served by some of the same Occupy SF kitchen volunteers that once fed hundreds of people daily at Justin Herman Plaza.

The building occupation was meant to affirm a strong belief in the rights of people to gather and organize, or at the very least have a warm place to sleep at night. It was also an assertion from Occupy: we’re still here, your warnings to property owners to board up their vacant buildings and the chain-link fence you put up in front of 888 Turk (which protesters casually removed upon arrival) won’t stop us.

“The Catholic church owns it. They’re supposed to be doing charity, but they’re leaving it vacant until they can get high rent out of it,” said Jazzie Collins that afternoon, an organizer with Senior Action Network who was there to support the May Day actions.

“There’s too many vacant buildings in this city, while people sleep on the streets.”

Collins spoke only for herself, but her take on the situation matched the sentiments of many who questioned the importance of property rights in the light of unused building and homelessness throughout the city. That’s the same reason that the SF Commune had sprung up in the same building, exactly one month earlier.

Police spokesperson Sergeant Michael Andraychak seemed to believe that this repeat occupation would turn out the same way. “We’re putting up some barricades attempting to restrict access to the building,” said Andraychak around 5pm. “We’re opening traffic back up.”

But not half an hour later, when the police put up the final barricades sealing off access to the building, the dozen or so people who got caught inside pushed back at the barricade. Police responded with intimidating and striking a few with batons. Then, a man appeared on the roof.

His face was covered in a black bandanna. He raised his arms, and in each hand, he held a brick. Onlookers began shouting, “don’t throw those!” He did though. He hit one man in the face, a fellow protester who, according to one source, has supported the Occupy SF effort since the camp.  

The mood of the crowd chilled. The brick-thrower held up more bricks, menacingly. 

Police closed the street off to traffic. Soon most protesters, supporters, and interested bystanders were on the other side of Gough or in the park, watching the events. A few spoke to and yelled at police lined up on the corners. Hundreds more police stood ground on Turk in front of the building. A few dozen remained inside, including one who had appeared on the roof, taken the bricks from the assailant, and tossed them off, out of reach.

Police arrested a suspect for the brick throwing as he exited the building out the back. Jesse Nesbitt, 34, is in custody in San Francisco County jail on $150,000 bail. According to sheriff’s department spokesperson Susan Fahey, he has been charged with three penal code violations: felony assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury (245a), assault on a peace officer with force likely to cause great bodily injury (245c), and felony vandalism of more than $400, 594b1.
A dozen or so remained in the building during the stand-off. Some poked their faces out an open window, hung down peace sign painted on a piece of cardboard, and talked into a megaphone. “We are not armed, we are completely peaceful,” one man assured. Meanwhile, police told press that they estimated 200 were inside and were “stockpiling pipes, bricks.”

The stand-off continued for a few hours until, at 7:30pm, police cleared out of the area. Most activists had left- thousands were massing in Oakland. But 40 or so people remained and re-entered the building. Many stayed until police came around 5am, arresting 26. Seven remain in custody, and all have been charged with trespassing. (Indicating that the weapon stockpiling concern turned out to be false. Which, as far as I could tell inside the building, it certainly was).

At that point, I entered the building as well to speak with those that remained. How did they feel about the violence? Did they think it was connected to the previous night’s events, when mysterious protesters destroyed numerous Valencia St businesses and cars in what some Occupy SF protesters suspect was an act of provocateurs?

For a response to come from Occupy SF, it must be consented on at a general assembly, a long process. So all the respondents represent only themselves- though most chose to remain anonymous. This structure can lead to a troubling lack of accountability: if something harmful happens at an action, who can be expected to explain it and help to prevent it in the future if everyone is responsible for only themselves? At the same time, each personal answer is less riddled in spin than a form answer would be, since people speak honestly, and for only themselves.

The Valencia St destruction “was enough that I didn’t come out and do anything today, whether it was Occupy or not,” one woman who had been “pretty involved in camp, back when it was at JHP” told me. “They were there to piggy back off an Occupy event, to use the organization of Occupy to organize themselves,”

The brick incident, however, did not caution her against showing up, as she did later that night. “Incidents like this happen often with mentally ill or violent people, but they get more publicity when they’re at an Occupy event.”

D, a longtime Occupy SF organizer, said wearily that “we were all surprised” at the incident.
“We weren’t expecting any bricks to be thrown,” he said, “and we didn’t want anyone to get hurt.”

But in terms of preventing similar actions in the future, D said, “We can only do so much. Everybody’s an autonomous individual and we can’t control what they do.”

“We can try to clean up everything that could be thrown, we did that last time. This time we focused more on stopping graffiti in the building. There wasn’t any.”

“That’s my friend. When I saw the brick flying at his face, I was hurt. Half our crew is in the hospital with him right now,” said another organizer. “But the real violence is the system putting people on the street, and the cops enforcing that. I’ve seen [Nesbitt] beat up by police.”

“What should we do, just turn our backs on people with mental illnesses?” another piped up.

“This whole occupy thing at this point is so spread out and separated,” said a self-described Occupy SF supporter. “There are parts that are revolutionary and parts that are more reform, and they’re trying to bridge that. I don’t know what it is at this point anymore. But I know I support a movement to articulate the rage at what’s happening in our country right now.”