Occupy SF

The Latin dish



San Francisco is a literate community, always has been. Bookstores abound, perhaps not as much as bars, but that’s fish for another soup. The literary scene is uber-vibrant, as highlighted by the recent Litquake Festival with more than 800 writers reading in hundreds of venues.

But looked at from another perspective, the most recent study on adult literacy reveals startling numbers: Nationwide one in seven adults is illiterate, about 14 percent of the adult population. The same study cited San Francisco with an adult illiteracy rate of 18 percent, or nearly one in five adults (National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 2003).

One out of five adults in San Francisco is illiterate and we have 11 supervisors—it’s scary, right? If I think too much about this it keeps me up at night.

So I am proposing that our elected officials, especially our supervisors, post their reading lists on their websites, for the electorate to view, perhaps to even offer comments or questions.

Nothing reveals more about the human heart—who you are, your world view, your interests—than what you’re reading. Where do they get the recipes for all the laws they cook up? Do they read newspapers—I mean community newspapers? Poetry? Fiction? Non-fiction? Adrian Rich? Isabel Allende? Machiavelli? I would like to see the list of their dictionaries, and I hope to see lots of bilingual ones—like Spanish-English, Cantonese-English, Tagalog-Spanish-English, Russian-English. Caló. Me entiendes, Méndez? Or is it English-only dictionaries?

In the best of worlds we would find on their reading lists poetry, novels, history, art, philosophy.

One way out of this morass of violence brought to us in burning color by the powers that be…might just be a poem. Something created by another human being, easy to hold in one hand, or folded in the pocket—sometimes the gift of peace is as simple as that.

It’s not just about books, but writing and stories that speaks to us, our sense of who we are, who we have been—and, if there’s any time left on this planet, where we might be going.

One of the biggest problems in our society right now is that too many politicos run around downplaying reading and writing—proud of the fact they’ve never read a book, don’t know cacahuates about poetry or literature, much less art or music, and could care less. But we live in one of the great literary cities, rich with song and poetry going way back before any Euro cats showed up trapping beavers or digging for gold. So to ignore this heritage would be foolish for any politician. After all—as the wise poet once said, “Poetry is the best word in the best place.”

If we are truly a literate city—the City of Poets — then it must be all of us, from four-year-olds to 100-year-olds. We must all be good readers: From the Rammaytush songs still drifting in the fog that sweeps over Twin Peaks, to Maria Amparo Ruíz de Burton to Oscar Zeta Acosta, the Brown Buffalo, to Roberto Frost. Or any of the past poet laureates will do just fine, Ferlinghetti, Mirikitani, major, Hirschman, di Prima, a virtual all-star lists of voices, styles, visions.

As part of a literacy campaign aimed at city officials and our elected leaders, two poets Virginia Barrett and Bobby Coleman, have put together an anthology Occupy SF: poems from the movement that includes more than 100 poets, from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, devorah major and Jack Hirschman to many emerging poets. The two editors have launched a campaign to place this anthology in the hands of every city bureaucrat and elected official. They are operating as a nonprofit, and all proceeds go to benefit the evolving Occupy movement. The anthology is published by Jambu Press/Studio Saraswati, which can be contacted via email: saraswati.sf@gmail.com or snail mail at PO Box 720050, SF 94172.

And please, political leaders — no excuses about how busy you are. If that’s the case maybe you should retire so you can take some time to read.





All the ingredients can be found

At your local bookstore


Take the honey from many languages

The poetic juice from many cultures

The crying songs of many lands

The spices of diverse foods

The love a parent has for a child

The love a child has for the wind

Include an image of bound feet

Discovered in a 19th century photo book

Plus the history of war crimes

Seasoned with the salt of exile

The lovers’ caress before sex

Blend them together In any order You will find wisdom in every bite

Alejandro Murguía is San Francisco’s poet laureate. His column will appear regularly.

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 www.bayoccupride.com.

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, www.obau.org.

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 www.occupybernal.org 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

Happy Birthday Occupy


Occupy celebrates its one-year anniversary Monday, and many of the groups who have gotten involved over the past year will be going all out. These groups’ goals–  including ending unjust foreclosures,  fighting displacement of queer people and homeless people, and taking back power from banks and the one percent– are a lot to achieve in one year. But they’ve made great stride. They’ll celebrate, and commit to another year of action, on Monday. 

Occupy Bernal, Occupy Noe and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment will put the pressure on banks that continue to foreclose on San Franciscans despite widespread evidence of fraud and a city resolution calling for a moratorium on foreclosures. At noon, they will hold a rally highlighting the ways that the foreclosure crisis disproportionately affects seniors, veterans and disabled people- find them at 401 Van Ness. At 3pm they will rally One Market Plaza, the officers of Fortress Investment Group board co-chair Peter Briger, infamous amongst the “foreclosure fighters” for his role in selling off distressed home mortgage debt.  

In the Castro, Community Not Commodity, the coalition that formed around an Occupride march protesting the corporate takeover of the Gay Pride Parade and continues to fight “increased rent, foreclosures and evictions, and the displacement of queer and homeless youth.”  They will meet up at 2pm at 18th and Castro for a speak-out, followed by a march on the banks at 3 and a sit-in protesting sit-lie at Harvey Milk Plaza. 

Also at 2pm, Occupy Oakland is throwing a street party. They’ll converge at Embarcadero and Market at Justin Herman Plaza (renamed Bradley Manning Plaza by the people from Occupy San Francisco, whose encampment stood there for three months last fall.) Organizers advise: stay tuned for Oct. 10, the one-year anniversary of Occupy Oakland. 

But Occupy San Francisco didn’t start at Justin Herman Plaza. It started Sept. 17, 2011 at 555 California, outside the building that houses the Bank of America west coast headquarters along with Goldman Sachs offices. It’s there that everyone will converge at 5pm for a raucous casserole-style march with the Brass Liberation Orchestra, followed by guerilla movie screenings, food to share, and a debt burning: “bring dept papers (BYOD) to burn symbolically,” say organizers.

Can’t wait for tomorrow? Occupy SF hosts a day of poetry and speakers at Justin Herman Plaza today. The Human Be In, the unpermitted music and skillshare festival that brought hundreds to play music, teach workshops, and “transform space” in a dusty spot near Ocean Beach yesterday continues through tonight.  Occupy Bay Area United is also throwing a rally and teach–in focused on corporate greed starting outside 555 California at 7pm. 

Occupy is dead! Long live Occupy!

To be a poster artist during Occupy: Chuck Sperry on psychedelic art, social change, and port shutdowns


With Occupy’s first anniversary sneaking up on us, has enough time past since its inception to reflect on its urban encampments and frightening conflicts with law enforcement in a rational, reasonable manner? Maybe rational is the wrong word — I’m sure many would agree that the movement’s major contributiont to date was a general firing up of the 99 percent, even of those 99 percenters who would sooner have ridden a bike to work than sit in on GA meeting in Oscar Grant Plaza. Through leaving its agenda undefined, Occupy allowed us all to paint our own hopes and dreams for the world onto it like a piece of drawing paper. 

For some more literally than others. This month, an exhibit opened at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts that accumulates the work of 25 Bay Area artists who spun their Occupy dreams into poster form. Chuck Sperry is perhaps one of the most well-known name of the bunch. Sperry’s lived in the Bay since 1989, and recently came home early from a camping trip to answer our questions about his relationship with Occupy, the way he distributed his “This Is Our City And We Can Shut It Down” prints on the day of the Oakland port shutdown, and general “what does art mean” token asks. 

SFBG: At what moment did you realize that Occupy was an important event? How did you first hear about it? 

CS: Through the beginning of 2011, I was creating an installation for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art curated by Renee de Cossio, with artists Chris Shaw and Ron Donovan. Each artist would install work in one of three artists’ gallery windows on the side of the SFMOMA on Minna Street. The proposal for the installation was to bring the aesthetic of San Francisco’s poster traditions to painting, and to realize these in monumental form. I wanted this piece to reflect San Francisco’s poster history beginning in the freedom of speech movement through the 1960’s, and to also reflect the psychedelic tradition that gave birth to the rock poster.

While I was working on an 11-foot by nine-foot acrylic painting, I was following the progress of the Arab Spring movements, Tahrir Square, and the gathering Occupy Wall Street movement that was spreading across America. I decided to use my reaction to these events as inspiration for an iconographic painting titled, “Saint Everyone.” I wanted to express the opening mind, and spreading enlightened humanism, the decentralization of power — or awakening sense of people power — to the piece. I used vibrating, reactive colors to paint a figure holding an opening lotus (symbol of enlightenment), against a background of op-art circles, which communicate decentralization — that the background has many centers — like the movement which has no leaders.

“Saint Everyone” was installed at the SFMOMA in June 2011. So I was getting with it by then.

As Occupy Oakland was forming by the fall of 2011, my artist friend Jon-Paul Bail of Political Gridlock was printing his iconographic “Hella Occupy Oakland” posters on Frank Ogawa Plaza (re-named Oscar Grant Plaza) from the point when people were first gathering there. When I say printing, Jon-Paul Bail was printing live, right there, with a table set up in the open, printing and handing people freshly-made posters. In a few short weeks he had printed hundreds, if not, thousands of posters which were being handed out to people there. He was joined there on Oscar Grant Plaza by Melanie Cervantes and Jesus Barraza of Dignidad Rebelde, who created more iconographic posters for the Occupy movement.

SFBG: What led to your decision to make art inspired by Occupy? Was it a different process than your other creative projects?

CS: In September I was in an art show, LA VS. WAR, with Bail, Barraza, and Cervantes, (among others) and we discussed making posters for the November 2 Occupy action to close the Port of Oakland. Fellow artist Chris Shaw — who was involved in the SFMOMA Window Gallery Installation — offered to pay for the production of any Occupy posters through the printing account of rock band Moonalice who was in solidarity with Occupy. 

I created “This Is Our City, And We Can Shut It Down.” I usually work with images and take a lot of time to work my art into a design. In this case, the message was so overriding and important that I felt it was my job as an artist to stay out of the way, and let the words and message do their job. So in this way it was different. I used color theories learned in studying the long San Francisco tradition of psychedelic poster art, the use of hot colors against cold colors to make the words read from a half mile away — haha! I wanted a strong, radical message, used with bold nurturing colors that convey a positive emotion. It would not be a typical political poster.  

SFBG: How do you want your Occupy poster to be used?

CS: Chris Shaw and I discussed printing our posters on heavy paper stock, and printing on both sides to double the exposure we could give people to our message. You could use this poster as a placard, hold it up over your head. It would make quite an impression and be useful to the action. I stood at Oscar Grant Plaza next to the street and passed out nearly 1000 posters in 45 minutes to the front of the march, so when television camares picked up the action at the Port of Oakland, the front of the march was a sea of my poster with the message, “This Is Our City, And We Can Shut It Down.” No one directed us to make these posters. No one asked. We just did it. And passed them out.

SFBG: What’s been some of your favorite protest art throughout history?

CS: I am very inspired by Emory Douglas‘ art in the Black Panther Party newspaper. I’ve had the honor to work with Mr. Douglas to reprint some of his iconic images. I also am very fond of the French Situationist posters of May 1968, and had the good fortune to print a poster, while I was visiting Paris to make a poster show about five years ago, on the very same press that produced these memorable images. When my artist friend told me that Guy Debord had worked with artists on this very same press, I laughed and dropped to my knees and just could not believe it.

Sperry at Occupy

I invited Jon-Paul Bail to collaborate in teaching a class at the Free University of San Francisco, as I’m organizing the art department of that cooperatively-organized free school. We told the story of making posters for the Occupy movement and created a poster for the Occupy Education action last spring. I think the ideas coming together from the Occupy protests will move through society in a very healthy and transformative way. There’s no way to stop people once they have been awakened to their potential. 

SFBG: What is the role of art in social protest?

CS: Art can reach many people in many walks of life. I was invited by San Francisco’s Varnish fine art gallery to exhibit at SCOPE / Miami in conjunction with Art Basel Miami art fair. Even in the context of the fine art world I felt it was important to express the social revolution that was taking place through the Occupy movement, and created a piece titled, “Mind Spring,” which expressed some of the same ideas I put in my SFMOMA painting and my Occupy poster. In “Mind Spring”, I created an icon of the worldwide Occupy movement and it’s antecedent in the Arab Spring. The figure wreathed in blooming spring flowers is a representation of the surprising enlightened humanism, the opening mind, the broadened socio-political possibilities which has swept the world in 2011.

I’ve had many discussions about the role of political art over the years. Two solutions to this problem constantly come to mind, first, “content over style” — that content is more important than style. Your message is the most important element in creating art of social protest. Second, that “the personal is political”, your own experience is so very often shared by others all over the world. When you make a piece of art in social protest, and just tell your story from your own perspective, and you do not hold back, you will be describing a situation that is shared by others half a world away. It’s uncanny, but our local problems are very similar to everyone else’s globally. So get in there and try to change what you can from where you are. Many hands make light work.  

“Occupy Bay Area”

Through Oct. 14

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-ARTS


Occupy brings the noise to the Canadian consulate for Quebec students


Activists with Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Education Northern California and other groups staged a small demonstration outside the building that houses the Canadian consulate to express solidarity with student strikes in Quebec.

Protesters brought pots and pans to the building at 580 California, banging them in tribute to the casserole marches that have characterized the Quebec strikes.

Students in Quebec province have been on strike since February. School has let out for the summer, but the uprising shows no sign of stopping- in a massive demonstration June 22, some reports showed 100,000 marching in the streets of Montreal, and recently teachers have pledged to join students. 

“Last Friday, they had 100,000 people in the streets,” cried Stephan Georgiou, a former CCSF and UC Berkeley student. “The students of Quebec have continued to take to the streets despite Bill 78.”

Bill 78, passed as an emergency measure May 18 by the National Assembly of Quebec, forbids protests on or near school grounds, requires that march organizers submit their route to police in advance of demonstrations, and attempts insure that all classes resume in late summer.

Security guards allowed two protesters into the building and representatives from the consulate came to the lobby to receive a list of demands written by the group, which included the release and dismissal of charges against imprisoned students, the repeal of Bill 78, and “the end of all austerity measures for students, because education is a human right.”

Protests in Quebec began over proposed tuition hikes, and at yesterday’s rally, students from area high school and colleges told stories of their student loan debt during the rally.

“I was a senior in high school in the 2011/2012 school year. I applied to SF State,” said Hannah Stutz, 17. “My parents are currently in debt, so I needed to apply for financial aid.”

With a loan offered by FAFSA, Stutz said, “I was awarded $70 if I take out a $30,000 loan.”

“I’m a single father, I have yet to graduate college, and I’m $60,000 in debt,” said another protester.

Last March, US total student loan debt surpassed $1 trillion.

“It’s approaching the amount of the bank bail outs,” said one protester. “They should have just bailed out all the student debt. The money would have gone to the banks anyway.”

Indeed, activists and polticians have thrown around the idea of widespread student loan debt forgiveness, as well as a debt strike– simply refusing to pay.

“The average debt people graduate with is now $25,000,” said Beezer de Martelly, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, “and we all know how quickly these prices are escalating.”

“On November 9, we were beaten in exchange for trying to keep dept down for future generations,” she said, recalling Occupy Cal protests against tuition hikes during which students were notoriously beaten by police.

“There is a large group of students here in California planning on forming our own student union,” said Georgiou.

After leaving the building’s lobby, satisfied with proof that the consulate had faxed the group’s demands to Canadian Premier Jean Charest, Occupy CCSF organizer Janice Suess thanked the crowd for coming out.

“Not only are we in solidarity with the students in Quebec,” said Suess, “but we’re building our own movement here.”

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.

A range of rage at Obama visit


Hundreds gathered in the financial district today as President Obama came through San Francisco for a brief visit, consisting of a high-priced fundraising lunch and no public events. A mostly silent crowd waited patiently to watch the president’s motorcade drive by this afternoon, first at 1 Market St and then at 456 California, before he went off to SFO. On the crowd’s sidelines, handfuls of dissenters from various groups held signs and spoke up with a diverse range of reasons for protesting the president.

On Market, the motorcade went past the Occupy SF campsite at 101 Market St, where a dozen protesters had gathered. Their signs and chants focused on the National Defense Authorization Act. Sections 1021 and 1022 of the act, which the president signed Dec. 31 2011, have been interpreted as allowing for indefinite detention of terrorism suspects in the United States without charge or trial.

National groups Code Pink and World Can’t Wait brought attention to what they called Obama’s war crimes. 

“Code Pink is asking Obama to kill the kill list,” said Nancy Mancias, an organizer with the womens’ peace organization, referring to a list of terror suspects targeted for US attacks that Obama personally oversees. “We want more transparency in the CIA drone program, and victim compensation to the families of those who have been killed in drone strikes.”

World Can’t Wait demonstrators emphasized that Guantanamo Bay detention facility is still open and housing almost 200 prisoners, despite President Obama signing an executive order to close it days after taking office.

For demonstrators from the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace, it’s imperative that the president stop oil drilling in the Arctic.

“There are a couple small permits they still need to get, but Shell is ready to drill in the Arctic in July,” said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. 

Sakashita said that drilling there could be dangerous for residents of the region, as well as polar bears, walruses and seals. 

“The conditions are terrible for drilling,” said Sakashita, citing low visibility and icy terrain. “If they can’t stop an oil spill in the gulf of Mexico, how will they stop it in the Arctic?” 

If these conditons do indeed lead to a disastrous oil spill, Greenpeace volunteers will be there first hand to witness it, as the group plans to send vessels of their own to monitor the operations.

Tea party protesters and Ron Paul supporters also came out to see the president. 

“It’s an issue of competence,” said Charles Cagnon, a protester who held a sign calling President Obama a “bad hire.”

“A president is our employee, not a king.”

But Cognan wasn’t too pleased with the competition either. 

“I was a Ron Paul kind of guy,” he said, “but I’ll take Romney. He’s level-headed and competent, and he likes arithmetic.”

“Obama doesn’t like arithmetic,” he continued, as evidenced, according to Cagnon, by the senate rejection of Obama’s budget May 16.

“Bush was terrible,” Cagnon added. “Romney is uninspiring.”

Cagnon and his group sported “Nobama” gear, Code Pink protesters came with signature pink clothing and signs, and a Greenpeace volunteer was dressed as “Frostpaw the polar bear.” Focused for the day on a common enemy of sorts, no conflicts arose between the divergent protest groups. For his part, Cagnon added that despite his right leanings, he loves KPFA radio, and that he believes the tea party has a distrust of government in common with Occupy.

“I’m just glad there’s people out there dissenting,” he said. “We need people like that.”

Chevron meets amid angry shareholders, liability, and environmental disasters


About 40 gathered outside Chevron’s San Francisco offices yesterday to mark its annual shareholder meeting. The demonstration was organized by OccupySF’s environmental justice working group, and used art and street theater to criticize Chevron’s involvement in hydraulic fracturing, a natural gas extraction process that may threaten parts of California’s water supply.

The afternoon protest came after a larger group showed up to Chevron’s world headquarters in San Ramon for the shareholder meeting that morning. According to Ginger Cassady of Rainforest Action Network (RAN), who helped organize the protest, it was a “big, colorful demonstration” with “over 100” in attendance.

Groups like the True Cost of Chevron and RAN’s Change Chevron campaign have been pressuring the company for years on a variety of issues. This year, workers and residents in areas where Chevron operates from Ecuador, Brazil, Angola and Nigeria travelled to San Ramon to voice their concerns. These ranged from oil-contaminated land in the Ecuadorian Amazon to an explosion on an oil rig off the shore of Nigeria in January. In that explosion, two workers were killed and more than 100 local people left the city for fear of contamination and other health risks caused by a fire that burned for months before going out on its own, despite Chevron’s efforts to contain the flames.

About 30 activists from around the world entered the meeting with proxy votes, according to Cassady. None interrupted the meeting, instead waiting their turn to speak. There were no arrests.

Some people with proxy votes, however, were not allowed access to the meeting. João Antonio de Moraes, national coordinator of Brazil’s United Federation of Oil Workers (FUP), was not allowed access, along with two representatives from United Steel Workers. Another worker, at the meeting to present in support of a resolution for worker safety, was initially blocked from entering but allowed access after a dispute, but had his presentation notes confiscated.

At the meeting, Chevron CEO John Watson announced “tremendous performance momentum” for the company, with “earnings of $26.9 billion” in the past year, according to a press release.

“Watson reinforced Chevron’s long-standing culture of safety and environmental stewardship, and resulting industry-leading performance,” the press release states. “He also highlighted Chevron’s commitment to partnerships that address health, education and economic development issues in the communities where the company operates, and Chevron’s global social investments of approximately $1 billion over the past six years.”

But Chevron is also suffering financially due to liability following oil spills, explosions, and contamination, a concern protest organizers say Watson failed to address. Representatives from Chevron did not return calls for comment.

The company recently settled with plaintiffs in Ecuador after an appeals court there ordered that they pay $18 billion in fines for spilling and deliberately dumping a total of 345 million gallons of crude oil in the Amazon rainforest of northeastern Ecuador.

Stockholders in attendance voted on eleven proposals, including seven submitted by shareholders, at the meeting. All of the votes went with the recommendation of the Board of Directors- including a proposal to reform the Board of Directors itself. That proposal asked that the Board of Directors find an independent Chair to head it up, as the current Chair is Chevron’s CEO, John Watson. The Board of Directors has the authority to incentivize and, if necessary, fire CEOs.

“We believe this presents a conflict of interest that can result in excessive management influence on the board of weaken the board’s management oversight,” read the proposal.

The proposal, along with several others, mentioned the Ecuador lawsuit, saying “we believe that independent board leadership is key at Chevron, given the questions raised about the oversight by the board of the CEO’s management and disclosure to shareholders of the financial and operational risks to the company from the $18 billion dollar judgment in the Ecuadorian courts in 2011.”

“With all these major legal liabilities that Chevron is facing a lot of people are concerned,” said Cassady.  “Chevron is profitable at the expense of worker safety, the environment, human rights and our economy.”

Other stockholder proposals dealt with safety, transparency, and the environmental impacts of Chevron’s international operations. A proposal asking Chevron to disclose money spent on lobbying received approximately 23 percent of votes, a proposal asking for a report on what the company has done to reduce the risk of accidents like the Niger Delta explosion received only eight percent of the vote, and a proposal that Chevron nominate a new board member with environmental expertise failed as well with 23 percent of votes cast.

Shareholders also voted on a proposal that Chevron release a report on the financial, environmental, and community impacts of hydraulic fracturing, the focus of the afternoon protest in San Francisco. The proposal received about 27 percent of the vote.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of extracting natural gas by injecting dense underground rock formations with a pressurized mixture of water, sand and chemicals. It has been hailed as an environmentally friendly alternative to oil drilling, as natural gas burns cleaner than oil.

But protest movements have coalesced around fracking practices in the Appalachian mountains region and above the Marcellus Shale, as residents report toxic chemicals in their water supplies, endangering drinking water as well as water used for raising livestock and growing food.

The 2010 documentary Gasland included now notorious footage of residents near a Pennsylvania fracking operations whose tap water bursts into flames.

Fracking operations in California are less well known. The protest outside of Chevron’s San Francisco offices yesterday drew attention to this issue- and the extensive list of chemicals present in fracking solution.

“It’s happening in California, but it’s not really talked about” said Ellen Osuna. Osuna now lives in San Francisco, but moved from New York, where she says she worried about her water supply since it comes from aquifers near the Marcellus Shale.

The protest featured an 180-foot banner, painted by artist Ruthie Sakheim. The banner listed more than 70 chemicals found in fracking fluid, in alphabetical order.

“It’s not even halfway through the A’s” said Sakheim.

She also handed out bottles of water oil-colored water labeled “Frackelicious Frackwater Unsustainable Energy Drink.” The label listed some of the more toxic chemicals involved in the process under “ingredients” along with “no preservatives, no artificial flavors, 100 percent poison.”
According to a report released by the Congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce, fracking fluid contains 750 chemicals, which “ranged from generally harmless and common substances, such as salt and citric acid, to extremely toxic substances, such as benzene and lead” as well as many carcinogens, according to the report.

These chemicals, along with gas itself, can enter water supplies when the casing on wells cracks or when wastewater containers spill.

The Safe Drinking Water Act of 2005 specifically exempts hydraulic fracturing, a lack of regulation known as the Halliburton Loophole.

Fracking currently takes place in nine California counties, including Sacramento, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Monterey.  But the extent of hydraulic fracturing in California isn’t well known, and yesterday, the California Senate rejected SB1054, which would have required energy companies to notify landowners before using hydraulic fracturing on or near their land.

In between chants of  “ban fracking now!” Sakheim told me that she spent several months painting the banner, and plans to continue the project of listing the chemicals involved in fracking in artistic form.

“I have three kids,” said Sakheim. “I really worry about what will happen to them with these corporations having so much control to influence government.”

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.”

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.”

Occupy retakes Catholic Church building


The Occupy SF Commune is back.

More than 100 activists went from a march on Market Street to the building at 888 Turk, owned by the Catholic Church, that was occupied not long ago.

“This is our home,” said one OSF person. “A lot of folks love this spot.”

He added: “Any vacant building, people have the right to use it, just like with any vacant land. These are resouces of the commuinity and tney’re not being utilized.

“We’re offering medical care and serving food right now. Everyone is welcome here, and open space for the people, just like the camp at Justin Herman Plaza.”

May Day protests begin with ferry workers strike


[Editor’s Note: We’ll be covering May Day events in San Francisco and Oakland throughout the day, so check back for regular updates.]

May Day activities have begun with a strike by ferry workers and Golden Gate Transit workers, halting parts of the morning commute.

About 100 ferry workers picketed at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, as well as the Larkspur Ferry Terminal. In anticipation of the strike, the Golden Gate Bridge District announced that they would cancel morning ferry service yesterday. Service should resume at 2:15.

Workers from the Golden Gate Bridge Coalition say that they have offered concessions of more than $2 million and are still locked in labor disputes, prompting the strike for the traditional International Workers Day. 

“The last thing that bridge, bus, and ferry workers want to do is to inconvenience passengers, but what other option has management left us?” said Alex Tonisson, co-chair of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition, in a press release.

The strikes come after a rough start to May Day demonstrations in San Francisco. A plan for workers on the Golden Gate Bridge to strike and shut down traffic on the bridge was called off two days before the planned demonstration. Last night, protesters vandalized store windows, cars, and the Mission Police station in a march along Valencia St. Organizers with Occupy SF and Occupy Oakland were quick to distance themselves and condemn the destruction, both physically at the protest and in subsequent statements. 

We will continue to update as events unfold.

On eve of May Day, Valencia, Mission Police Station vandalized


A group of protesters left a trail of broken glass and paint tonight as they made their way from Dolores Park to Duboce on Valencia. Windows were broken, garbage cans overturned, paint bombs thrown, and messages saying “yuppies go home” as well as anarchist symbols were spray-painted on several restaurants, art galleries and cafes.

The façade of the police station on Mission and 17th was vandalized and broken.

A gathering at Dolores Park was advertised as a “a ruckus street party to counter gentrification, capitalism, and the policing of our communities.” About 200 attended, and chatted about their plans for the following day’s May Day activities while music played.

Shortly after 9pm, the group left the park and began to march on Dolores. Some overturned recycling bins and vandalized the windows at Farina restaurant minutes after turning the corner on 18th St, while others held back.

Dozens flocked to the sidewalk and began yelling, “this is not an Occupy SF action!”  while passers-by looked on, concerned.

The group turned on Valencia, continuing to shrink in size and break windows. Within half an hour there were less than 50 people in the march.

About 40 of police on foot followed the march along Valencia, trailing behind as vandalism continued. SFPD representatives were not immediately available for comment, but based on witness accounts there were no arrests.

Neighborhood residents were angered and confused by the destruction. One man who did not wish to be named said, “They kept doing it while other people in the march were trying to get them to stop. It was childish.”

Occupy Oakland protester Jesse Smith told CBS he was “more than a little shaken” by the events. 

“I know Occupiers,” Smith told CBS. “None of us have any idea who they were.”

A message on the Occupy SF website reads, “The march in the Mission Monday night was not an OccupySF event. OccupySF does not endorse this kind of destruction of the 99%’s property. The individuals involved in this destruction are not known to OccupySF, and we believe they are outside provocateurs sent in to tarnish the image of Occupy prior to the May Day actions.”

What’s going on for Bay Area May Day?


UPDATE: The Golden Gate Labor Coalition has announced a change of plans. Instead of Golden Gate Bridge pickets, the coalition will be supporting a strike of ferry workers, who plan to bring all morning ferry service to a standstill. They have announced that the actions at the Golden Gate Bridge are cancelled, and instead workers will be demonstrating in solidarity with ferry workers in Larkspur- specific locations will be announced later today.

May 1, International Workers Day — May Day — used to strike fear into the hearts of bosses. The first May Day in 1867 was a fight for the eight-hour workday in Chicago (see more history at Citizen Radio at the Occupy Oakland Tribune). Since then, May 1 has remained a day when grievances are aired, when students and workers party in the street, when people strike in ways that shows whose really boss (you can’t have that work that keeps everything running without all those workers.) But mostly in other countries.

In the US, the day has diminished in importance, although it has resurged in recent years focused on immigrants rights. But what with Occupy Wall Street, labor and union organizing ramping up, and student strikes, and all these people working more and more closely together, May Day is coming back to the US.

The Bay Area certainly won’t be left out. Here is a list of May Day events, starting tonight and ending–well, who knows when. If you know of others, write them in the comments: it wouldn’t be a decentralized massive attempt at a full-on general strike without you!


5:30pm, San Francisco:

City workers from SEIU Local 1021 will gather at City Hall in a continued offensive surrounding their ongoing contract negotiations. The program runs until 7:30 pm, but the protest will go on “until they kick us out!”

8pm, San Francisco:

“The strike starts early” with a gathering at Dolores Park. According to a press release, demonstrators will meet “for a ruckus street party to counter gentrification, capitalism, and the policing of our communities.” www.strikemay1st.com/the-strike-starts-early

MAY DAY (Tue/1)

All day:

National Nurses United/California Nurses United is on strike at Sutter Health locations throughout the Bay Area. According to a press release, “some 4,500 RNs will be affected by the planned walk-out.”

ILWU Local 10, which worked in solidarity with Occupy Oakland in two port shutdowns last fall, is planning another one. They say that a work stoppage will halt the Port of Oakland’s operations all day.

7-10am, San Francisco:

The Golden Gate Bridge labor coalition, representing several unions of workers on the bridge, have been without a contract since April 2011. They originally called for a strike and resulting shut down of the bridge- and had massive support behind them. They’re now saying the protest will involve picketing at the bridge instead. So come join a picket, or if you cross the bridge don’t take the workers for granted- the bridge doesn’t work without them. www.occupythebridge.com

7am, San Francisco:

Meet at 16th st and Mission to be a part of the first SF Bike Cavalry of the day, a critical mass that will ride to the Golden Gate Bridge in solidarity with the picket. www.sfbikecavalry.org

8:30am – 12pm, Oakland:

Occupy Oakland will join others protesting, picketing, and generally striking at three (or four?) “action stations.” Meet at Snow Park for a “flying picket” that will “shut down banks and the Chamber of Commerce.” Meet at First and Broadway to “occupy Child Protective Services” in response to a decision they made to de-grant custody of one woman’s children based in part on her involvement in Occupy Oakland. Meet at 22nd and Telegraph to cause mayhem at uptown and downtown business associations. www.strikemay1st.com/119/

10am, San Francisco:

A rally and march for immigrants rights (the people who have been holding down US May Day for years.) Meet at 24th St Mission Bart for a march to 16th St. 

11am, San Francisco:

Janitors and retail workers at Westfield Mall are engaged in an ongoing labor dispute, and they’ll be picketing in solidarity at 5th and Market. 

11am, San Francisco:

A second SF Bike Cavalry will convene at Justin Herman Plaza to support the janitors strike, the immigrants’ rights march, and the Peoples Street Festival

11:30am, Hayward:

The Amalgameted Transit Union Local 192 will protest “substandard conditions” and “institutionalized racism” (according to a press release) at the operators of AC Transit, A-Para Transit Corporation, 22990 Clawiter Rd in Hayward.

12pm, San Francisco:

All the San Francisco students who walk out of school, workers who call in sick, people who usually do all the housework, who, for the day, say screw it, and other “general strike” participants will converge at Montgomery and Market for the People’s Street Festival. Music, performance, art and fun for the whole family. 

Noon-1pm, Oakland:

A mass rally in Oakland, at 14th and Broadway, with food, speakers, music, activities, and generally a lot to do that you can’t if you’re at work. 

1-3pm, Oakland:

According to Occupy Oakland “After the rally, those in attendance have the opportunity to stay downtown or join one of the autonomous actions that will be departing from 14th & Broadway to continue shutting down various capitalist institutions in the downtown area.”

3pm, Oakland:

Meet at Fruitvale Plaza (next to the Fruitvale Bart station) for likely the biggest action of the day. The March for Dignity and Resistance is being called the Bay Area’s regional protest and supporters will be there from all over the area. mayday2012.blogspot.com

6pm, San Francisco:

Celebrate workers rights at a fundraiser for Young Workers United, a self-described “multi-racial and bilingual membership organization dedicated to improving the quality of jobs for young and immigrant workers.” The party is at El Rio, 3158 Mission. www.occupysf.org

On May Day, local groups who have taken to occupying spaces in ways other than public square-camping will be ramping up their efforts. The occupied farm at Gill Tract will push on, and in a message from Occupy San Francisco: “On May Day, the SF Commune will open it’s doors and conduct another Open Occupation in solidarity with the May 1st General Strike.” So if you’re looking for someone to sleep while protesting a complex web of oppressive forces Tuesday night, you may be in luck.

For more information, see www.strikemay1st.com, a clearinghouse for Bay Area May Day plans.

Also see:









Court support for Oaksterdam arrestees Oakland federal courthouse, 1301 Clay, Oak, 9:30 am, free. About 60 percent of Californians support medical marijuana, and a similar percentage are likely quite pissed off following federal raids on Bay Area businesses that dispense medical cannabis as well as the trade school that launched careers in the growing industry, Oaksterdam University. When property was seized and medical marijuana defenders arrested last week, there was an uproar, and that uproar continues Wednesday, when a handful of those detained have a court date. Show up to held support those arrested and continue the fight for safe access.


Learn the Art of Seeding San Francisco Public Library- Parkside Branch, 1200 Taraval, SF, www.feeltheearth.org, 3-4pm, free. Join Jonathan Silverman (aka Victory Farmer), director of Feel the Earth, for a workshop teaching kids how to plant seeds and keep them growing. Anyone three years old and above is welcome to connect with their plants and learn to cultivate them at this engaging workshop. They will probably get to leave with some brand new peas.

Walk Against Rape The Women’s Building, 3548 18th St, SF www.sfwar.org 11am, free or fundraising optional. Every two minutes, a sexual assault occurs in the United States. Women Against Rape have long provided a crisis hotline and other services for people dealing with sexual assault, as well as a safe space to share stories. April is sexual assault awareness month, and WAR will conclude it with the Walk Against Rape- continuing the struggle against sexual abuse of all kinds.

Green Action Walkathon McLaren Lodge, 501 Stanyan, SF www.greenaction.givezooks.com 10:30am, free or $15 for T-shirt towards fundraising. A beautiful walk through Golden Gate Park, for a good cause. Green Action is an organization dedicated to fighting localized environmental hazards. It’s stopped toxic waste dumping from Hunters Point to indigenous land in Ward Valley. Now, it invites you to “Join communities and individuals affected by environmental pollution in the march toward a healthy planet.”

TUESDAY 1 May Day Many locations. See www.strikemay1st.com for round-up of Bay Area events. This is going to be big. A call for a May Day general strike has resonated throughout the world, and in the Bay Area everyone from labor to Occupy groups plan to heed that call, hard. There will be a slew of events as organizers tell everyone: no work, no school, no shopping, no housework. Instead, take to the streets for everything from a family-friendly street festival to a marches throughout Oakland and San Francisco to what Occupy SF has announced as a “rebirth of the San Francisco commune.” Some groups will even kick off the day early, with an April 30 “ruckus street party” in Dolores Park and SEIU protest at City Hall. So call in sick- you might not be able to get to work anyway, as a group plans to occupy the Golden Gate Bridge that morning.

Activists demonstrate, spend the night outside Wells Fargo


About 50 gathered for a demonstration April 23 outside the west coast Wells Fargo headquarters on Montgomery and California- and 20 stayed the night- in a plan to “Occupy Wells Fargo” for the bank’s shareholder meeting April 24.

Several organizers from non-profits and community groups aired their complaints about Wells Fargo, including their role in the foreclosure crisis as well as investments in the private prison and coal industries. 

Wells Fargo is a substantial investor in GEO Group, whose “operations include the management and/or ownership of 114 correctional, detention and residential treatment facilities encompassing approximately 80,000 beds,” according to its website. 

Amanda Starbuck of Rainforest Action Network decried Wells Fargo’s investments in the coal industry, especially mountaintop removal mining– a mining technique in which the top of a mountain is blown up, to attain access to coal. Many environmentalists oppose the practice, which leaves mountains flattened and barren, while allowing for the flow of sediment and mining chemicals into rivers and streams. 

“These projects would not be able to happen if banks like Wells Fargo didn’t invest in them,” said Starbuck to the group.

After the events ended around 10pm, protesters remained, serving food to passers-by and preparing for today’s events. One woman projected the word “shame” in glowing letters beneath Wells Fargo’s sign. 

“So John Stumpf [CEO of Wells Fargo] said, that’s a moral hazard to give principal reduction to people who are getting foreclosed on, but it’s not a moral hazard for Fannie Mae to buy up all these crap mortgages from us, and put the taxpayers on the hook,” Jane Smith, a longtime Occupy San Francisco organizer, explained enthusiastically to a small group of other protesters sitting on the sidewalk taking notes. 

Organizers say they expect at least 1,000 people to protest outside the company’s shareholder meeting.

20 remained over night outside the bank, about 16 lined up in sleeping bags. Police stood by throughout the night- there were no conflicts. 

Protesters plan to meet at Justin Herman Plaza at 10am for a march to the shareholder meeting.

Summer camp on wheels



MUSIC While Rupa Marya of Rupa & the April Fishes and Gabe Dominguez of Shake Your Peace are crossing their fingers for cloudless, sunny days ahead during their joint week-long bicycle trek around the Bay Area, in some ways, they were brought together by a storm.

It was a storm both physical and figurative: the scattered downpours during their first encounter at the now-dispersed Occupy SF campsite at Justin Herman Plaza last November (11.11.11) during the Occupy Music Festival — where both bands played — and, the subsequent storm of ideas that lead to the bike tour agreement.

“So it was kind of like the perfect storm,” says Dominguez, sitting next to Marya in the Nervous Dog Coffee cafe on Mission Street in early April. “It was an auspicious day,” Marya later adds. “Oh my god, what a day.”

The fruit of that brainstorm, the Bay Rising Tour, will kick off tomorrow at Stanford University, with the ragtag bicycle caravan of around 15 core riders heading counterclockwise around the Bay, stopping in nine cities over 10 days, playing both conventional music venues and guerillas art spaces. The musicians on bikes piled high with gear will turn their final corner on to Divisadero to play the Independent April 28.

Marya and Dominguez had walked into the Nervous Dog that afternoon smiling, bubbling with expectations of the impending tour. The two are clearly platonically smitten with another other’s passion for social justice, global music, and good old-fashioned bike fun.

As Marya nibbles an empanada from the cafe, Dominguez continues their story. “We made the connection that both of our bands make multicultural dance rebel music, rock music for the ecotopian revolution. Bicycles, bioregionalism, now being the time — it all just coalesced.”

One key difference that’s soon to evaporate: Shake Your Peace has done many bike tours, but this will be Rupa & the April Fishes’ first (though they’ve done some trial runs in preparation).

Along with leading Shake Your Peace, and playing in Tiny Home with his girlfriend, Sonya Cotton, Dominguez is a co-founder of the yearly Bicycle Music Festival (since 2007) with Paul Freedman, who too plays a role in the Bay Rising Tour.

Freedman’s company is Rock the Bike, which built the pedal-powered audio system the groups will use in the open space and outdoor venues — San Jose Bike Party, Fremont Earth Day Grounds, Keller Beach Park.

Along with those mentioned, the tour will roll to A Place for Sustainable Living in Oakland for an Earth Day party (with food cooked by Marya’s urban farmer brother), a Beaver Liberation show in Martinez, and a Glen Cove ceremony by Ohlone Leaders in Vallejo.

Out on the road between venues, the caravan has three transportation strategies: people carrying their own instruments on bicycles, those packing larger instruments like guitars on Xtracycles — an Oakland company that sells an extension for the back of the bike — and lastly, a few riders on electric-hybrid bikes carrying six-to-eight foot trailers.

They also are encouraging other cyclists and Bay Area residents to come along for the day rides between shows — to help map out the flattest routes. There’s a real community effort feel to the plan.

“In the wake of where we find ourselves right now, economically, sociopolitically, we can’t wait for someone to hand us the reality we want. We have to build it, we have to create it. And that’s what’s so exciting about this way of touring,” Marya says.

She adds, “it’s not asking for permission, it’s just doing what you do as a musician, which is to mobilize yourselves…bring people on your journey, have a chance to interact with them in another way, which is so different than get on the tour bus, be isolated, be backstage. We’re going to create the stage, we’re going to create the experience.”

Both bands make the kind of music that invites interaction and discussion, so an interactive tour, flipping the tradition of a clear separation between artist and audience, seems the right direction.

Rupa & the April Fishes — now wrapping up their third studio album, Build — have long been fixtures on the global music scene, a Bossa nova bumping mix of Brazilian, Indian, Latin, and French influences, sung in three languages. While based out of San Francisco, they’re often out exploring the world, most recently Chiapas, Mexico; Amsterdam; and Athens, Greece.

Shake Your Peace started out in New York as folk trio, but now “Shake Your Peace 2.0” makes a style of music that Dominguez has dubbed “whup” — a melding of Afro-Latin beats with bluegrass instruments such as fiddle, and gospel harmonies.

“W-H-U-P, it’s a celebratory spirit with a philosophy, a political approach,” Dominguez explains excitedly. “We’re not just fighting for better wages, we’re fighting for life. It’s the spirit of your heart kicking. The scream when you come out of the womb. Life, yaow!”

He appears equally amped on the Bay Rising tour itself, adding again that others should join the rides with the bands — “they’re welcome to experience this rolling summer camp with us.” And they’ll both be Tweeting their locations along the way for the day rides.

As the effusive conversation in Nervous Dog comes to a close, Dominguez and Marya are still talking about the logistics of the trip, including where they’ll crash at night, and the importance of gathering tarps to cover all their gear, just in case of bad weather. 


With Rupa & the April Fishes, Shake Your Peace


Various venues, Bay Area








Occupy the Dream

The SF Interfaith Allies of Occupy call for a rally to end racism, stop foreclosures, protect jobs, and hold corporations and financial institutions accountable. “At a time when Jews and Christians celebrate the ancient stories of liberation let us name the Caesars and Pharaohs of today,” say organizers of this latest event as part of Occupy the Dream. The event also commemorates the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr on April 4, 1968.

11:30am, free

City Hall

1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, SF



Bill McKibben speaks

Bill McKibben is a leading figure in the fight against global warming. He started in 1989 with his book The End of Nature and went on to found 350.org, which has coordinated 15,000 rallies against climate change since 2009. He will speak about where to go next in the climate change crisis as well as discussing the current struggle against the Keystone XL pipeline.

10am, $15 in advance and $18 at the door

First Unitarian Universalist Church

1187 Franklin, SF




Birding by bike

The SF Bike Coalition hosts this tour of the birds of Lake Merced and Golden Gate Park. San Francisco could always have more bike routes, but the ones it does have provide an excellent pathway for this birding trip, in which participants don’t need to leave the city to observe both resident and migrating species. David and Annie Armstrong host birding by bike; David is an amateur ornithologist who has been birding and leading bike trips in San Francisco for 12 years. Bring your bike and binoculars.

8:45am, free

Vélo Rouge Café

798 Arguello, SF




Remembering Bataan

On April 9, 1942, Filipino and American soldiers surrendered to Japanese forces after more than four months of holding their ground in the forest of Bataan, a large Philippine province; 15,000 then died en route to prisoner of war camps in what became known as the Bataan Death March. Students and faculty at Cal State University-East Bay will commemorate its 70th anniversary with a night of voices and perspectives from the battle. The event will feature a screening of the documentary Forgotten Soldiers, as well as speakers from the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society, Battling Bastards of Bataan, Bay Area Civilian Ex-Prisoners of War and the U.S. Armed Forces of the Far East, the the Philipine-American Student Alliance, who will present research on American film depictions of Filipino soldiers at the time and the stories of Bataan Death March survivors.

4pm, free

Cal State University- East Bay Theater

25800 Carlos Bee Blvd, Hayward

(510) 885-3000


“Your Money, and How Wells Fargo Gets Away With It”

To prepare for the April 24 Wells Fargo shareholders’ meeting in San Francisco, the International Forum on Globalization’s plutonomy program is sponsoring this teach-in and training. David Solnit from the Occupy SF direct action work group will be leading a workshop on nonviolent action, and people from across the social spectrum will be speaking on how irresponsible corporate banking has adversely affected their lives — from janitors to students, families to immigrant rights advocates. 

6pm-9pm, free

San Francisco State University

Humanities Building, Room 587

1600 Holloway, SF


Arrests after overnight ‘San Francisco Commune’ occupation


After at least 100 people remained in a building at 888 Turk for almost 24 hours, police ended the occupation at 1:30 pm today, blocking off the street, and arrested more than 70.

According to a press release from OccupySF, the occupation’s purpose was “creating a community center in the spirit of the buildings original intention, to create a center for health and healing.  In a city with ten thousand homeless people and thirty two thousand vacant but habitable units, it is a crime against humanity that people are prevented from sleeping through the night as part of a political protest or as a basic human right.”

A muni bus carrying police in riot gear pulled up in front of the building and officers ran out, issuing no warning to those inside.

The number of occupiers had jumped since noon, when a march of about 40 supporters arrived. A large group was on the second floor when police entered; according to protesters who remained inside, some had barricaded the stairway.

“For a while, we knew they were inside the building and we could hear a sound like a battering ram,” said one protester, who says that she was transported to the jail in the same vehicle as a man who sustained a broken wrist during the raid.

Some who were outside the building when police arrived were allowed to leave out the front door, and others may have exited from different routes.

Independent journalists were among those arrested.

Protesters say that they were occupying the space to demand rights for the homeless and a community center in which to organize.

The occupation was part of a “National Day of Action for the Right to Exist,” organized by the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) and USA-Canada Alliance of Inhabitants. According to Paul Boden, an organizer with WRAP, demonstrations in conjunction with the day of action took place in 17 cities.

“The government serves the people. If the laws stops working, and there are people who are homeless on the street and they need a place to stay, they should be able to stay there,” said Shannon Mueller, a sophomore environmental studies major at the University of San Francisco. Mueller and others from Occupy USF joined about 50 others who protested outside police lines as the arrests took place.

Most have been charged with misdemeanor trespass.

Neighbors varied in their responses to the occupation on their street. Some from the Parkview Terraces apartment building across the street expressed support and gave donations to occupiers, while others reproached the group or called, “get a job.”

A group of about 50 supporters gathered at Union Square to at 5pm and marched to 850 Bryant where some of those arrested were being released, blasting music, dancing, and chanting “this is what solidarity looks like.”

Inside OccupySF’s ongoing building takeover


UPDATE 1:15 PM: Without warning or an order to disperse, riot police arriving by bus suddenly raided the building moments ago, making more than a dozen arrests so far. More soon as the story develops.

Editor’s Note: Guardian staff writer Yael Chanoff reports from the inside of vacant building that Occupy SF has taken over in hopes of creating a community center.

The inside is mainly filled with people organizing, exchanging ideas, and e-mailing and calling contacts from around the city who may be able to provide assistance for the effort. Many are coordinating for a meeting with the Catholic Archdiocese – which owns this former mental health clinic at 888 Turk Street – that is scheduled to take place this afternoon. A delegation from the Interfaith Council of San Francisco and the National Lawyers Guild are also on their way to building to help plan for the meeting.

A head count last night showed there were about 125 people here. Some have left, but many arrived this morning, leaving about 100 at this point. Various rooms in the building have been organized for different purposes including a welcome desk and information center, sleeping quarters, library, and medical clinic.

Last night, it was a relaxed party atmosphere with groups in every room expressing ideas for the community center and employing strategies for keeping the space. Graffiti art and messages were painted in hallways, a free hot meal was served, and people mostly respected designated composting, recycling, and trash bins. The commune received at least five deliveries of donated pizza.

By 7 am today, occupiers were sweeping, scrubbing and picking up stray trash, as well as painting over most of the message on the walls with white paint. The police are holding a partial line, with barricades blocking the sidewalk on two sides of Gough and Turk streets, and officers are attempting to prevent people from entering the building.

However, they have not blocked off the street and many people have entered by riding up to the entrance in bikes, cars, or simply walking past police. Deliveries of supplies this morning includes breakfast of cereal, milk, coffee and fruit; as well as mattresses and warming clothing.

About 20 people are sitting outside the building in the sun blasting KPOO radio, which made an announcement on air a few minutes ago that it is the soundtrack of the SF Commune. There is a tent set up on the roof, and a group up there doing a coordinated dance number.

There is a general assembly meeting set for 6 pm and most occupiers are hopeful that there won’t be a police raid before then.

Breaking: hundreds with OccupySF ‘occupying’ building


UPDATE: Representatives of the Archdiocese have made clear that they will not make a decision regarding the building occupation until the morning 

OccupySF, along with at least 400 supporters and homeless advocacy groups, have entered a vacant ’building and plan to turn it into a community center. Participants served a free dinner, unrolled sleeping bags and tacked up posters in rooms marked “sleeping quarters” by organizers, and are currently meeting to decide next steps.

“Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Oakland originally were providing food and shelter to those who didn’t have it previously. That’s the plan I think, to provide food, shelter and a space for political organizing,” said protester Samantha Levens, 33, a deckhand on the Alameda-Oakland Ferry. 

The building, 888 Turk, is the former site of Westside Mental Health Center and has been vacant since the closure of that mental health clinic about five years ago. It is owned by the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

It is available for lease through HC&M Commercial Properties.

About 400 marched to the building at 4:30pm, trailed by an former AC Transit decorated and converted to a protest-party vehicle by Occupy Oakland. The march had the air of an April Fools Day Carnival, complete with clowns, jugglers, and a man dressed as Captain America alongside people with bandanas and Guy Fawkes masks. Protesters marched from Union Square on Geary, chanting “homes not jails” and ”housekeys not handcuffs.”

The march followed a rally in Union Square, in which homeless advocates from Berkeley, Oakland and Sacramento spoke to the crowd, and performers including the Mixcoatl Anahuac dance group and the Brass Liberation Orchestra kept the mood festive.

The protest was part of a national day to defend the rights of the homeless with protests in 17 cities. Paul Boden of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, which planned the Union Square protest, spoke speficically about Business Improvement Districts in San Francisco, which he claimed funell property taxes to businesses at the expense of the homeless.

When the march arrived at Turk and Gough, the site of the building, it had already been unlocked from the inside, and protesters on the roof held a sign reading “organize or starve.”

About 40 police officers provided an on-foot escort for the march. Officers as well as several police vehicles are currently standing by the “occupied” site, and declined to provide comment at this time. 

An OccupySF-associated building takeover occurred Jan. 20 just a few blocks away at the former Cathedral Hill Hotel. At the request of the building’s owners, police entered the building, and no occupiers remained the following morning.

“Occupy SF through the OccupySF commune has inhabited a vacant building for the purpose of creating a community center in the spirit of the buildings original intention, to create a center for health and healing,” according to a press release issued by the group.