Inside the occupation

With its general assemblies, People's Mic, and chants of 'We are the 99 percent,' OccupySF gains momentum despite a police crackdown

|
()
Occupy SF marches through the Financial District on Oct. 5 chanting "Make banks pay" and "We are the 99 percent."
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY LUCY SCHILLER

Follow the Guardian's complete Occupy SF coverage here.

Thursday morning, in gray seven o'clock fog, about 100 people asleep in front of the Federal Reserve building began to blink their eyes open. The bustling camp that had been there the day before — a small village of tents, tarps and easy-ups, shelves brimming with books, art supplies, and a display of hundreds of signs — was gone. The kitchen and all their food were missing, too.

"Wake up, everyone's gotta wake up. Remember, sit/lie kicks in at seven," urged a few protesters gently, winding their way through the maze of sleeping bags and blankets. No one was in the mood for legal trouble. All the people there, and a few hundred more who had gone home at two and three in the morning, had been a part of OccupySF's first clash with the police. Someone pushed a cart full of fruit and granola bars. Breakfast. It was the camp's first food donation since the incident, which had ended only four hours before. In the calm morning air, it was clear: the police could confiscate gear, but they could not stop the protest. It was only the beginning.

To say that OccupySF has grown in the past three weeks does not begin to describe it.

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, the camp was busy, clean, and what organizer Amy O proudly described as "jubilant." Hundreds exchanged ideas, played music, and made signs and art. Two abundant snack tables providing free food to any and all were only the tip of the iceberg; the kitchen was piled so high that organizers had begun turning away food donations.

This scene contrasted starkly to the demonstration's first night. Occupy SF started on Sept. 17, the same day as Occupy Wall Street, as one of the solidarity actions now reportedly numbering over 1,000. About 150 people gathered for the protest that first day and only a handful stayed the night. A week later, there was a devoted group of 10 campers. By Oct. 1, a good 40 people were camping and the kitchen and communications sections were set up. When the police showed up late Wednesday night, camp was 200 strong.

 

AS LONG AS IT TAKES

Spending time at the camp is addictive. Since my first night, I feel something constantly pulling me back. That night, Oct. 1, the camp was lively and half a block long. A big, hot pot of soup sat on the kitchen stove. Next door, the communications area was populated with organizers busily typing on laptops. The medical tent was next, kept pristine but as of yet untouched—its necessity, nonetheless, was evident after that week's incident in New York when police pepper sprayed a group of young women.

At that point, the San Francisco Police Department had been courteous with OccupySF. They provided escorts on marches and didn't bother the camp. Soon after arriving, Russell, a friendly 23-year-old from San Diego who has been camping since the first day, greeted me. He told me that there was a Gardening Committee meeting in a few minutes, and I planned to check it out. Next I saw Lesley Moore, 48, an Oakland resident with unrelenting energy and a knack for mediating misunderstandings at meetings.

She carried a clipboard and was compiling a massive list of food, supplies, and every imaginable resource the group might want. I learned that a flood of supporters, eager to donate, had requested info about what the camp needed. She planned to post the list on occupysf.com later that night.

Fifteen people climbed into a tent for the Gardening Committee meeting, keen to begin growing food for the camp. The donations were rolling in, and if there was a project we wanted to do, well, we probably could. We discussed what could grow in the winter and planting more in the spring. The mood was giddy with possibility but a bit uneasy— could we imagine we'd still be here then?

Related articles

  • Valentine's Day dump the banks rally: If only all break-ups involved this much singing (VIDEO)

  • What are people?

    Occupy protesters and progressive politicians call for end to corporate personhood

  • Occupy is back -- with horns and glitter

    An energetic day of action shows that the movement is very much alive

  • Also from this author

  • Privatization of public housing

    Many residents feel they're moving from the frying pan of Housing Authority control into the fire of developer and nonprofit management

  • Homeless for the holidays

    Changing demographics in the Bayview complicate city efforts to open a shelter there

  • Betting on Graton

    Newest casino targeting Bay Area residents promises to share the wealth with workers and people of color