An energetic day of action shows that the movement is very much alive
The Brass Liberation Orchestra, a radical marching band that has been energizing Bay Area protests for a decade, showed up in full force with trumpets, drums, trombones, and a weathered sousaphone.
The Interfaith Allies of Occupy also used horns to declare their message. About 30 participated in a mobile service, sounding traditional rams' horns and declaring the need to "lift up human need and bring down corporate greed."
Said Rabbi David J. Cooper of Kehela Community Synagogue in Oakland: "Leviticus 19 says, do not stand idly by in the face of your neighbor's suffering. Well, we're all neighbors here. Ninety-nine percent of us are suffering in some way, economically or spiritually. And maybe that number is 100 percent."
FOCUS ON HOUSING
A coalition called Occupy SF Housing called for and organized the day of action, but the messages ranged from environmental to anti-war to immigrant rights.
Many groups did focus in on housing-related issues — and a takeover of a vacant hotel building stressed the urgency and need to house homeless San Francisco residents.
Housing protests included an anti wage-theft occupation led by the Filipino Community Center and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns at the offices of CitiApartments, an action at the offices of Fortress Investments to demand a halt to predatory equity, and an "Occupy the Auction" demonstration in which protesters with Occupy Bernal stopped the day's housing auction (at which foreclosed homes are sold) at City Hall.
"A lot of the displacement in this city is happening because of banks and because of things that are out of peoples' control," said Amitai Heller, a counselor with the San Francisco Tenants Union. "People will live in a rent controlled apartment for 20 years thinking that they have their retirement planned. A lot of the critiques of the movement are, if you couldn't afford it you should move. But these people moved here knowing they could afford it because of our rent controls."
LIBERATE THE COMMONS
Most of the early protests drew a few hundred people. But when the 5 p.m. convergence time rolled around, many people got off work and joined the march. A rally at Justin Herman Plaza brought about 600; by the time the march joined up with others at Bank of America on Montgomery and California, the numbers had doubled.
The evening's demonstration, deemed "liberate the commons," was also more radical than other tactics throughout the day; organizers hoped to break into and hold a vacant building, the 600-unit former Cathedral Hill Hotel at 1101 Van Ness.
When protesters arrived at the site, police were waiting for them. Wearing riot gear and reinforced by barricades, the cops successfully blocked the Geary entrance to the former hotel.
The darkness, rain, and uncertainty created a chaotic environment as protesters decided how to proceed. Some attempted to remove barricades; others chanted anti-police slogans.
Soon, cries of "Medic! We need a medic!" pierced the air. A dozen or so protesters had been pepper sprayed.
Police Information Officer Carlos Manfredi later claimed that the pepper spray was in response to "rocks, bottles and bricks" thrown by protesters. He also claimed that one officer was struck in the chest by a brick, and another "may have broken his hand."
But I witnessed the entire incident, and I can say that no rocks, bottles or bricks were thrown at police.
When protesters opted to march down Van Ness, apparently towards City hall, several broke windows at a Bentley dealership at 999 Van Ness.
The march then turned around and headed back up Franklin, ending at the former hotel's back entrance. There, it became clear that some protesters had successfully entered the building; they unfurled a banner from the roof reading "liberate the commons."