On the streets with Occupy San Francisco

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The messages sounded yesterday on the streets of San Francisco – delivered in speeches, chants, signs, songs, interviews, and the petition handed to Chase Bank officials by a half-dozen protesters before their arrest – should resonate with most Americans. After all, while rich corporations and individuals have been accruing ever more wealth, the vast majority of us have been falling behind.

“Banks get bailed out, we get sold out,” was one of those chants by the several hundred people who marched through the Financial District – our OccupySF effort building off the two-week Occupy Wall Street events – targeting some of the villains of the economic meltdown: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Charles Schwab, the Federal Reserve, and Goldman Sachs.

They may be relatively small and easy to ignore, these “occupations” of Wall Street and San Francisco and other cities that are entering their third week, but they're being driven by a palpable anger and stirring critiques of economic and political systems that exploit the powerless. But as the foreclosures, layoffs, and other hardships continue, this nascent movement could have some staying power.

“I think it's starting to wake people up out of their complacent distraction,” Robin Kralique, a 26-year-old SF resident holding a sign that read “Let's have the GDP measure happiness,” told the Guardian. “We're planting the seeds for a better future, and I'm hoping it wakes some people up.”

Like many of the young protesters gathered outside the corporate office building at 555 California at the start of the march, she was inspired by Occupy Wall Street. They're angry watching their economic opportunities evaporate as more and more of the country's wealth accumulates in fewer and fewer hands.

“There's an insane amount of greed in this country,” 24-year-old Erin Kramer, a dancer and performance artist stuck in a corporate job she needs to get by, told me. Her sign read, “Don't be afraid to say revolution!”

And many weren't, with calls for revolution on the tips of many lips, albeit tempered with healthy doses of realism. “Even if it isn't at critical mass yet, it sets the stage for the next revolution,” Kralique said when I asked her what she hoped this moment would accomplish.

Sup. John Avalos, a progressive mayoral candidate who spoke at the rally, is pushing legislation to create a municipal bank in San Francisco, one that would invest far more money in local projects and small businesses than Bank of America, which manages most of the city's money.

“We have to figure out new ways to use our local dollars to help our economy,” Avalos told us. “The message here is we're pulling our dollars out of these banks unless they help us.”

Before Avalos spoke – asking the boisterous crowd, “Have you ever felt like you've been had?” – activist Bobbi Lopez was on the microphone decrying the “lack of accountability for the people responsible for this decline.”

And then, the march was off – flanked by dozens of San Francisco Police officers on motorcycles, riding bicycles, and in cars – to deliver creative forms of protest around the Financial District, including a funny song and dance routine by Fresh Juice Party in front of the Schwab office, singing, “Land of the free, home of the brave, this is the street our labor paved.”

In fact, that was almost literally true at the San Francisco march, which was shepherded by off-duty city workers from SEIU Local 1021.

“This Wall Street thing is really spreading. The message of a small group of people in New York has really spread...Wall Street is a symbol of all this corruption, cronyism, and greed,” Gabriel Haaland, an organizer with SEIU Local 1021, told me at the start of the march. “It's really resonated with our members...It's been picking up steam as things have been unraveling over the last year.”

An hour or so later, Haaland was one of six people who staged an occupation of the Chase branch at Market and 2nd streets, along with two women in his union who have been unsuccessfully battling bank foreclosures on their homes – Brenda Reed and Tanya Dennis – and three other activists: William Chorneau, Manny S. Tucker, and Claire Haas.

Tipped off by Haaland, I was inside the bank lobby as the march approached and a police officer on a bicycle came inside to warn bank officials, “The protest is headed your way, you may want to secure the premises.”

He and another officer helped prevent protesters from getting inside, but the six protesters had already infiltrated the building. They began chanting and pulled blankets out of a suitcase, laying them out and placing them on the ground.

Reed spoke for the group, demanding to meet with JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimond to present a petition calling for a halt to the bank's foreclosures. Through tears, she told the story of her long struggle to protect her home from foreclosure by Chase, which had taken her loan over from another lender.

SFPD Lt. M.E. Mahoney told the group, “You're not going to be able to camp out here and wait for the CEO to come talk to you,” asking store managers whether they wanted to make a citizen's arrest. They did, but Mahoney also told Reed that he would watch as she handed the petition to store managers.

“I'm here today because for two and a half years, I have desperately tried to get Chase to work with me,” Reed told a bank employee as hundreds of protesters outside looked on and chanted their support. “You have put me through hell. You've destroyed my health, you've destroyed my business, and it's not fair what you've done.”

After she was finished, another bank manager (who refused to give his name) told Reed, “Just to let you know, we are compassionate to your cause,” drawing from the protesters the frustrated retort, “No you aren't!” Through the day, protesters noted that the banks have been profitable and don't need to be foreclosing on so many homes, sitting on so much capital, and funneling their profits out of desperate communities and into the accounts of wealthy investors – particularly after being bailed out by taxpayers in 2008.

Outside, the crowd chanted “Go, Brenda, go!” and “Let those people go, arrest the CEO!”

The crowd remained outside for more than an hour as police tried to wait them out, finally arresting the occupiers on trespassing charges and quickly citing and releasing them, apparently in the hope it would clear the people out of congested Market Street. “That was my quickest arrest ever,” Haaland, a veteran of many labor actions and progressive protests over the years, told me afterward.

Reed addressed the crowd on a bullhorn, explaining that she refinanced her home in 2007 with a shady “pretender lender” who misrepresented what her monthly payments would be. They ballooned to a level she was unable to cover and she sought a loan modification from Chase, which had taken over the loan from the now defunct Washington Mutual.

“Chase Bank is trying to steal my home of 38 years,” she told the crowd. “Jamie Dimond, come out from under your rock and let me talk to you.”

She decried how government bailed out the banks and then allowed them to aggressively foreclose on homes whose mortgages they didn't originate, but who acquired the title out of the complex financial derivatives that has sliced and diced mortgages into complex financial instruments.

“It's government-sanctioned fraud,” she said. Despite what she said were Chase's plans to auction her home in Oakland next month, she pledged, “You will not get my home. You will not get what belongs to me.”

But whether that kind of fierce resolve – voiced over and over again, by hundreds of activists fed up with economic injustice – translates into any kind of real change is yet to be determined.

Comments

Unfortunately that's the way the system works. I don't agree with it and I think there's a better way but right now we're stuck with dealing with the system we have - not the system we WISH we had.

Posted by Right on Sister Snapples on Sep. 30, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

why would anyone ever pay their mortgage?

It may not be much fun for a homeowner to be foreclosed on, but there is no alternative. There has to be a downside to skipping out on your loan, else we'd have moral hazard.

The vast majority of people pay their mortgages on time and in full. They should not have to subsidize those who fail to be as diligent.

Posted by PaulT on Sep. 30, 2011 @ 6:18 pm

That it's better to have people stay in their homes by modifying mortgages than it is to add more homes to an already over-glutted market.

I think there's merit to that argument. No one wins from foreclosure - it's a lose-lose from every perspective. It's much more preferable to figure out a way to allow people to keep their homes.

I don't know the particulars of her case but I doubt Chase wants another distressed property in Oakland. Too bad it's not making a bigger effort to resolve her case.

Posted by Right on Sister Snapples on Sep. 30, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

The property taxes for the new owner will be many times the original Prop 13 limited payments.

And it has to be good for the City for homes to be owned by those who can afford to maintain them.

Posted by PaulT on Oct. 01, 2011 @ 7:39 am

Paul T, professional troll--he with no life, and all the time in the world. Pretends he's very rich and powerful when he arselicks the rich, thinks he's the Koch Brothers' personal jackboot. What a sad, sad little man.

Posted by Paul T is Faulty on Sep. 30, 2011 @ 9:02 pm

Paul T. 's vicious assault on this woman is libelous and unwarranted. He does not know her or know whether or not she defaulted -- which is a legal question. He does not know whether or not Chase was even the lender or her life circumstances. Who is he to judge anyone?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2011 @ 6:43 am

The Bank could not legally foreclose if she were not in default of her loan.

While if as you suggest, Chase isn't the lender, then why protest at a Chase branch? and why in a different city from where she lives?

I agree we need more facts here, but the ones we've been given give rise to reasonable doubt.

Posted by PaulT on Oct. 01, 2011 @ 8:33 am

Be the change you wish to see in the world - Ghandi

Posted by Guest on Oct. 29, 2011 @ 11:32 am

Brenda can now sleep out on Market Street with the rest of us.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 30, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

Paul T, professional troll--he with no life, and all the time in the world. Pretends he's very rich and powerful when he arselicks the rich, thinks he's the Koch Brothers' personal jackboot. What a sad, sad little man.

Posted by Paul T is Faulty on Sep. 30, 2011 @ 9:01 pm

As a Democrat, I supported Obama with the hopes that he would help the American people. Now I am watching the home I grew up in being taken from my parents. He has escalated the war in Afghanistan, bailed out the banks who contributed far more to his campaign than I did and he has abandoned the bottom 99% of the American people. I don't think any of us would allow a Republican to get away with this. Why allow Obama? Please check out my petition at: http://www.change.org/petitions/supporters-of-barrack-obama-in-2008-pled...

Posted by Jesse Esteves on Oct. 01, 2011 @ 8:15 am

Mortgages get sold and re-sold all the time. For that matter, entire Banks get bought, sold and merged. But from the borrower's point of view, it makes no difference as the terms cannot change when the loan is sold.

Given that this property is in Oakland, why is Brenda picketing a bank branch in San Francisco? Nobody in San Francisco has any jurisdiction over this loan. The protest should either be in Oakland, or in NYC which is where the HQ of JPMorgan Chase is.

It would also be helpful if SFBG could publish the full price, loan and rate history of this property, so that readers can make an informed judgment of where the real culpability exists here.

Posted by PaulT on Oct. 01, 2011 @ 8:31 am

I hate to feed the trolls, but just to put the comments by Paul here and in my other OccupySF posts in perspective: All 50 state attorneys-general disagree with your assertion that banks are blameless and consumers deserve to be preyed on with predatory loan offers and foreclosures: http://www.baycitizen.org/housing/story/kamala-harris-walks-out-foreclos...

Some of them are even quite conservative, but even thoughtful conservatives understand the principle that powerful corporations can't be allowed to deceive and exploit powerless consumers. That's why we have consumer protection laws and how unregulated banks crashed our economy. Finally, Paul, just because people don't take your bait doesn't mean you've won any arguments on this blog, despite your hilarious self-assessments.

Posted by steven on Oct. 03, 2011 @ 11:09 am

This foreclosure situation has been going on for way too long without any real intervention from those in power. I support the protesters as is their right. We also need to have our local elected officials be true representatives and advocates especially on these serious life changing issues.

While our event today doesn't speak directly to this issue, hearing how mayoral candidates respond to various issues can help us as voters understand how a new mayor will operate if elected. Check it out.

WHAT: DogPAC of SF Mayoral Forum
WHEN: TODAY, October 1, 2011
TIME: 2-4pm
WHERE: Congregation Sha'ar Zahav
290 Dolores St @ 16th St
SF, CA 94103

Note: This location does not allow dogs except service animals. Thank you for your cooperation.

Posted by Bruce of DogPAC of SF on Oct. 01, 2011 @ 8:58 am

: one employed to associate with suspected persons and by pretending sympathy with their aims to incite them to some incriminating action; for example, the government used agents provocateurs to try to undermine the opposition party.

They call it divide and conquer. Keep that in mind when you consider bothering to respond to posters whos remarks are always inflammatory and divisive without adding anything of value (beyond opinion) to the conversation.

You know who you are. So do we.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

They've been used in wartime, and to thwart terror groups and organized crime.

I think the ridicule being expressed here is the idea that the secret service would deploy undercover agents to infiltrate such innocuous groups as the SF Green Party and "Anarchists Anonymous".

That presupposes such groups are credible threats to society as we know it.

Posted by PaulT on Oct. 01, 2011 @ 1:31 pm
Posted by Right on Sister Snapples on Oct. 02, 2011 @ 12:18 am

This thread. I am not saying I agree with either of their positions, but if you don't like what they are saying *refute* it. or just whine about them being "paid trolls", lol... So delusional.

Posted by Sambo on Oct. 01, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

It's amazing how many here claim all my statements are wrong and yet would much prefer to hurl abuse rather than actually engage in substantive debate about those same points.

Of course, that's also an indicator of when I've mastered a topic so I don't necessarily complain too much . . :-)

Careful though - someone will probably claim you are be, or a paid troll, or work for Chase, or . . .

Posted by PaulT on Oct. 01, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

We support the occupation!! I wish I could be there =(

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

PTbag, as usual, boring, predictable and blowing it out of his arse.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MAqG6BObmc
The only thing he has mastered is 'baiting', not debating.

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on Oct. 01, 2011 @ 9:29 pm

9/11 was an attack on America for it's unwaivering support for Israel in a crusade against Israel's enemies in the Mideast. Jews are less than 2% of the American population yet represent more than 20% of Congress and 33 1/3 % of the Supreme Court.

Neo-cons (Jews in the White House) convinced the public that Israel's enemy Iraq was to blame for 9/11 and invaded that country on the premises that weapons of mass destruction existed.

America has become a puppet of Israel, and the Wall Street banking bailout is one example of the puppetry.

Another example; The US invasions and occupations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Yemen serve two purposes; the elimination of more enemies of Israel and the theft of thosenations resources including gas and oil.

And and a Third; With dead bodies still lying in the streets of LIbya, US Senators, McCain, Graham, Kirk and Rubio have already traveled there and delivered contracts for the rebel Libyan government to sign which will further enrich the Wall Street bankers. While Americans at home suffer foreclosures and job losses, these puppets of Israel have wasted no time in fulfilling their master's wishes.

Posted by Capn Jer on Oct. 02, 2011 @ 5:03 am

Good lord...

Could have saved yourself a lot of time with that incoherent rant and just said "I don't like Jews". Wasn't aware that McCain, Graham, Kirk or Rubio were Jewish... or Jamie Dimon (I mean, the event was at Chase, right?). But since Jew=evil to you, let's just call them Jew Sympathizers and make it easier on all of us.

The fringe left... taking pages straight out of the fringe rights playbook, lol. Let's take a reasonable cause (fighting Wall Street greed), then blend it with some paranoid bigotry (Jews are the cause of all problems... everywhere), and pretty much wreck our whole message.

Posted by Sambo on Oct. 02, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/09/29/8038856-bachmann-condemn...

CONCORD, N.C. -- Michele Bachmann condemned the Arab Spring and blamed President Obama for allowing it to happen by "showing weakness" and by compromising the United States' relationship with Israel.

Why do you think there was an Arab Spring, she asked at a GOP fund-raiser at a local barbecue restaurant here. She went on to tie the uprisings to what she described as signals from the White House that America was abandoning Israel.

And in a new historical analogy, Bachmann drew a comparison between the fall of the Shah of Iran -- who Bachmann says Jimmy Carter "turned his back" on -- and President Obama's present-day relationship with Israel.

Bachmann also linked the rise of "Radical Jihad" to the fall of the Shah and the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Posted by meatlock on Oct. 02, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

Capn Jer,
I think you're doing the movement a big disservice by conflating religion with ideology.

Most neocons are NOT Jews, and most Jews are not neocons. To equate the two is to insult millions of Jews who are totally not on board with that agenda.

While you may be technically right that Jews are overrepresented in Congress and on the Supreme Court, if you put on your thinking cap for a minute, I think you'll find that the fact that they're Jewish is not the problem. Hint: if the 5 Christians who constitute the right-wing majority were more like the 3 Jews who are all in the court's more moderate minority, we'd be in much better shape as a country!

What you're doing is just as bad as the right wing's attempt to smear all Muslims as terrorists.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 02, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

Great goal and thoughtfully stated. But why call it "Occupy San Francisco"? They don't call it occupy New York city, but "Occupy Wall Street". I thought of San Francisco as a diverse and a more liberal place than most. Do not ruin the name and reputation of your city...Be careful with all those NY city guys who are good at converting protestors into one unified Tea Party supporters. :)) So call it, "Occupy Banks!" ; "Solidarity with Wall Street Occupiers" or "Occupy Corporations". Do not turn this into some kind of anti-city protest...forgetting how many ordinary city workers are struggling too. Be smart in your naming, and do not let others deride you. Wear flowers in your hair, keep love in your heart, develop good ideas in your mind and fight the elites, financial fat cats, special interest groups and ask the unions and city workers to oppose authority and the financial control crooks.

Call it "Occupy Corporate Space" or "Occupy Financial Filth, etc.

Do not say, 'Occupy San Francisco". Be proud San Franciscans and occupy the corrupt cruel institutions, places, leaders of the city and/or elsewhere.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2011 @ 11:40 am

You miss the point Guest.

The reason the local movement is called "Occupy San Francisco' is that San Francisco has already been occupied by corporations and privatizers.

The name indicates that the -people- are now occupying San Francisco to take it back.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 04, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

I know you all have good points to make but the real issue is the 1% versus the 99% of the wealth in this country that has been stolen by banks and corporate greed. The government mistakenly gave the money away without precise conditions to pay back the American taxpayers. This is the fault of the congress and the two presidents that made these rediculous deals. We are all suffering for their stupidity.

We are all either unemployed, underwater with our home loans or in foreclosure. There are very few out there that are safe or they may think they are safe but for how long. We maybe all homeless if the Republicans have their way with Social Security and Medicare and the new healthcare laws. We have to continue to fight and get out in the streets and voice our concerns. Just like the Vietnam war, the only reason the US finally pulled out of the war was because of the anti-war movement which led to great discontent in this country and abroad. Keep the revolution alive!!!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2011 @ 2:27 pm

FEDERAL RESERVE BANK
101 MARKET STREET
NOON>?

Posted by Patrick Monk RN on Oct. 05, 2011 @ 9:38 am

a song for WALL STREET
To the tune of : "Clementine" !!!

In the Valley
Of the Bankers
Locking elbows
Marching FREE
Rose a Sea of 99ers
"GIVE US BACK--
DEMOCRACY!!!"

In the Valley
Of the Slavers
The Oppressors
Of our Kin
Rose a Sea of 99ers
"WE WILL TAKE
IT BACK AGAIN!!!"

Posted by Guest on Oct. 07, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

It's ridiculous to let the banks and super rich take som much money from our taxes only to be made richer, while people who were already just scraping by money-wise are told to make do with less.
Occupy wall street is a great idea and i intend to join the local branch

Posted by meatlock on Oct. 10, 2011 @ 10:52 am