Occupy West, a day of direct action in SF


Close to 50 CCSF and SFSU students gather in lobby of the State Department building for a speak out against budget and class cuts, as well as increased tuitions, on Jan. 20 in San Francisco. CLARIVEL FONG/THE GUARDSMAN

By Thomas Figg-Hoblyn

The Guardsman

Occupy Wall Street West demonstrators took over the streets of San Francisco on Friday Jan. 20 in a day of action –– closing down banks, shutting down intersections and occupying buildings.

Police seemed unprepared as numerous actions kicked-off simultaneously across the city.

At 8:03 a.m., while security and management watched from inside, protesters blocked both entrances to the Bank of America at 345 Montgomery Street with a human chain of retired people, workers, carpenters and school teachers, including Julie Searle of Teachers for Empathy and Justice.

“We are here today focused against for-profit foreclosures and evictions on San Francisco, and the link between big banks and the devastation of our social fabric,” said Searle.

At 8:05 a.m. protesters blocked the Wells Fargo entrance around the corner on California Street.

Similar events were reported city-wide.

Just after 11 a.m., a graffiti covered MUNI bus operated by protesters pulled up in front of the occupied Bank of America on Montgomery Street blasting “California Uber Alles” by the Dead Kennedys.

Demonstrators converged upon the scene blocking traffic in all directions, chanting, “Bank of America shut it down, we want justice we want it now.”

Emotions escalated when a small band of police arrested a protester. Police found themselves trapped by a crowd of occupiers shouting, “Let him go.”

Within minutes a cavalry of motorcycle police marched into the crowd single file with batons raised.  Pushing occupiers to the ground they freed the other police officers then retreated to the protection of a large formation of riot police.

As riot police marched on the crowd from the west, approximately 30 motorcycle police advanced from the east.  Occupiers were cleared from the streets and the detained man was loaded into a sheriff’s van.
After the police left the occupiers took the intersection back.

At 3 p.m. Occupy SFSU, Occupy CCSF and teachers from City College representing AFT 2121 joined forces and occupied the state building at 455 Golden Gate Avenue.

Patti Chong-Delon, a counselor at City College said the union was there to support the students.  “The banks are taking advantage of the students,” she said, “and education should be accessible to everybody. Parents’ homes should not be mortgaged to pay for education.”

While highway patrol officers looked on demonstrators threw hundreds of phony $1 million bills into the air, and chanted for almost an hour.

Kitty Lui and Giovanni Valdez from Occupy CCSF explained that the fake bills represented tax payer money that goes to war and corporate profits rather than public education and social services.

The group put Gov. Jerry Brown on notice, promising to occupy the Capitol on March 5 as part of “Occupy Education.”

They blasted Brown’s proposed tax initiative which would raise the sales tax across California with no guarantee that the money will go to education and social services.

The protesters instead voiced their support for the California Funding Restoration Act, also known as the Millionaires Tax, a ballot initiative supported by the California Federation of Teachers that would increase taxes on millionaires to restore funding for education.

The day of action ended strong as occupiers gathered at Justin Herman Plaza at 5 p.m. then marched up California Street — the crowd stretching from Market Street to Montgomery Street — to congregate in front of the occupied Bank of America.

The crowd of protesters swelled to over a thousand as occupiers packed Montgomery Street between California Street and Pine Street in celebration.

Frederico Villalobos, a liaison for Occupy SFSU said, “It’s not just about the tents anymore — it’s much more than that.”

“Occupy Oakland” protesters came out en masse to demonstrate on Saturday, Jan. 28, as part of “Move in Day,” an attempt to take over a downtown building and use it for a festival site.

According to Lexi Pandell of Oakland North, the demonstration quickly turned into a confrontation between protesters and police, as some protesters threw bottles and rocks at officers, who in turn used tear gas and smoke grenades on the crowd.

The Associated Press reported that nearly 400 people were were swept up in a mass arrest, called “kettling” — a tactic used by police to contain individuals during demonstrations. Six local journalists covering the event were also caught up in the mass arrest.

Four people were injured including three police officers and one protester.

The Occupy Oakland Media Committee said that most of the arrests were made illegally because police failed to allow protesters to disperse.

The Guardsman