Who is the brick thrower?

Jesse Nesbitt, charged with Occupy violence on May Day, tell his story.

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The brick thrower, left, with Steven "Pirate Mike" Clift, who climbed onto the roof to disarm him
PHOTO BY STEVE RHODES

Yael@sfbg.com

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.

Comments

Clearly he is a victim of the system.

Posted by Troll II on May. 10, 2012 @ 9:50 am

So let's throw bricks at Wells Fargo so he may have justice!

Occupy logic is in a world of its own.

Posted by Anonymous on May. 10, 2012 @ 10:03 am

somehow see nothing of interest in the poor victim of his violence, who suffered serious head injuries?

Inbetween your endless apologist rants for Occupy crimes and misbehavior, why is there nothing on those who have been injured and killed by Occupiers, nor on the small businesses that have been trashed, nor the ordinary citizens who have had their cars vandalized or have been terrified by these rampages?

You need to examine your priorities.

Posted by Anonymous on May. 10, 2012 @ 9:59 am

The victim of his violence has forgiven but will not forget nor should we.
The tactic of brick throwing is not strategic nor morally welcome.

The piece done here is a viewpoint. If you want statistics on violence, physical or mental, do research and present it. There are different ways of observing a story. Ability to use the different points of view is one measure of a person's writing skill. It should also be a way of checking credible news sources.

I encourage the use of viewpoints as wider judgment. I remember in class when I was told that Mr. Lincoln was considered a failure by his peers. One day I hope you learn that there is more than one story. I hope this story gets brighter by hearing that he will be cared for and grow in peace...

Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.
--January 27, 1838 Lyceum Address Abraham Lincoln

Posted by Netizen 101 on May. 10, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

other side of the story, i.e. featured the victims of Occupy's violence and crimes. IOW, balanced coverage.

But they never do - that's the point.

Posted by Anonymous on May. 10, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

If the state locks crazy dude up for his own good the crazy lawyers will be brining suit. If the state lets it go, it is the states fault.

So no matter what the government does it is the fault of the government.

Posted by Matlock on May. 11, 2012 @ 12:10 am

killed by occupiers? what?

Posted by wiseoldsnail on May. 12, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

Nobody has been killed by Occupiers. That's why you havn't read about it.

Posted by Guest ethan davidson on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 11:20 pm

Clearly the man suffers from system victimhood and needs more personnel empowerment. He needs some personnel social justice.

We all need personnel social justice. If not, TO THE FRONT WE GO!

Jesse Nesbitt, al frente!

Posted by Troll the XIV on May. 10, 2012 @ 10:27 am

"Abraham Lincoln said, 'if the government betrays us, we're supposed to take them out.'"

True, that. That's one of Honest Abe's most famous quotes.

Posted by Troll the XIV on May. 10, 2012 @ 11:01 am

Yael - you are pathetic. You have no idea what journalism is about. You do not know Jesse nor his history and didn't bother to do any research. If you wouild like to do an accurate story about Jesse, talk to his family members about his history & you will get a more accurate and completly different story. This article is totally false.

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2012 @ 9:15 am

Sorry Yael - I was a little harsh on you. You make Jesse sound like the hero or victim his is not....

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2012 @ 9:57 am

i know jesse very well i can tell storys about him he picks upp and leave his kid in pa with his kid mom but the mom of kid try to help him in more ways than one but he didnt want tthe help so y help someone who dont what the help his loss not mine btw his kid is the best ever

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 2:28 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

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