A coalition from across San Francisco is hoping to make tomorrow – Friday, Jan. 20 – a monumental day in the history of Bay Area activism, the Occupy movement, and the fight against home foreclosures and other manifestations of corporate greed.Organizers call the day of protests, marches, street theater, pickets, and more “Occupy Wall Street West.”
Those that urged Occupy protesters to focus in on a list of demands should be pleased, as the day includes a list of demands on banks, including a moratorium on foreclosures and an end to predatory and speculative loans.
Organizers note that Occupy SF Housing, the coalition that planned the day, is separate from OccupySF. In fact, a subset of the group known best for its months-long tent city at Justin Herman Plaza was only one part of a substantial coalition that planned this day of action. Among others, the coalition includes the SF Housing Rights Committee, Homes Not Jails, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), and Occupy Bernal, a neighborhood-focused Occupy group specifically aimed at preventing evictions and foreclosures.
Justin Herman Plaza – or Bradley Manning Plaza, as many in OccupySF like to refer to the park just across from the Ferry Building – will be a crucial meeting point. A press spokesperson said that “down at Bradley Manning Plaza at 6 a.m.,12 p.m., and 5 p.m., we’re going to be launching various segments of the protests, and there will be information desks and education all for those who are interested.”
Organizers hope to culminate the day with a mass march at 5 p.m. A map of the planned actions can also be found here.
Many of the groups in the coalition have focused on specific cases of homeowners and tenants facing eviction and foreclosure; tomorrow, they bring their power to the Financial District.
Vivian Richardson, a member of the coalition who has also worked with ACCE and the newer Foreclosure Fighters group in Bayview, says that she remains in her home after being threatened with foreclosure due to community support.
“On my own, I tried everything to get out of this bad loan… I fought for two years on my own, only to have my home foreclosed on and taken away,” Richardson said at a press conference held yesterday.
“With the help of my community, unions, and ACCE members throughout the state, we generated over 1,400 emails and a few hundred calls to the CEO of [lender] Aurora Bank, and within one hour they called me to reopen my case,” she said. “As of today, the bank has voided the sale of my home and rescinded the foreclosure.”
Groups hoping to prevent foreclosures have had many success stories like Richardson’s. But tomorrow, they will put pressure on large corporate banks.
As SF Housing Rights Committee Executive Director Sarah Shortt said at the rally, “What we’re trying to do here is draw connections between some of those issues and the banking industry… I think that’s one of the most important pieces of the Occupy movement: starting to educate ourselves and each other about how ubiquitous the toll that’s been taken on cities, neighborhoods, communities by banking industry and the one percent.”
The focus is on housing, but in typical Occupy fashion, protesters will draw connections between all kinds of concerns that they see as abuses by banks and corporations.
According to OccupySF member Lisa Guide, the day is about “war profiteering, unjust foreclosures and evictions for profits by the big banks, exploitation of labor and union workers, and liberation of the commons for public good, among many other [issues].”
Guide also mentioned that Jan. 20 is “the eve of the Citizens United Supreme Court case, the court case that gave corporations the power to buy our government.” Simultaneous actions are planned to protest Citizens United, including an Occupy the Courts action at the Ninth District Court of Appeals at noon, to coincide with a national call to “Occupy the Courts”
More than 55 organizations are involved in the day of action, and their focuses go beyond housing rights. These include students from Occupy SF State, Occupy Modesto Junior College, and other campus Occupy groups; anti-war organizations such as Iraq Veterans Against the War; environmental organizations such as the Rainforest Action Network; several unions, including UNITE HERE Local 2 and the California Nurses Association; the Chinese Progressive Alliance; and the Interfaith Allies of Occupy, which will be hosting an all-day “respite area” at Saint Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church at 756 Mission.
The array of events planned for Friday is overwhelming. There are demonstrations, pickets, and occupations planned at dozens of banks and corporations throughout the Financial District. Street theater is planned in several places, including an adaptation of A Christmas Carol by the San Francisco Mime Troupe at Justin Herman Plaza at noon and a show from Iraq Veterans Against the War that, according to IVAW member Jason Matherne, a Navy veteran who served in Qatar, “is called Operation First Casualty, because the first casualty of war is the truth.”
Matherne said, “corporations are profiting off the war at the expense of the 99 percent. Specifically, the Bechtel Corporation is using--misusing--billions of dollars to rebuild the infrastructure in Iraq.”
Tomorrow should be big. In a press release, organizers claim that “this is predicted to be the largest street protest of the Financial District since anti-war protests in 2003.”
Whatever the turnout, the Saint Patrick’s "respite" should be a boon, as weather reports indicate rain for tomorrow. Luckily, as Vicki Gray, a Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of California, Occupy supporter and Interfaith Organizer, said of the sanctuary: “All are welcome. It will be warm, it will be quiet, and you will be loved.”