Occupy West Protesters Decry Bank Foreclosures, Corporate Personhood

Written by Eric Louie. Posted in News, Politics

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Published on January 22, 2012 with 3 Comments

Taking a stand for political, social and economic justice, University professor and Occupy Wall Street West protester, NTanya Lee, chained herself to the entrance of Wells Fargo Bank headquarters in San Francisco, 1/20/12, to protest bank foreclosures. Photos by Eric Louie.

By Eric Louie

Editor’s note: Additional coverage of  Thursday’s Occupy Wall Street West protest in San Francisco, via Pacific Media Workers Guild.

January 22, 2012

The rain didn’t dampen NTanya Lee’s protest spirit as she sat chained to the the revolving door of Wells Fargo’s downtown San Francisco headquarters.

Like hundreds of others she braved Friday’s downpour to participate in Occupy Wall Street West, a daylong event featuring dozens of demonstrations, and ending with some broken windows, other minor vandalism and a short takeover of a now-closed hotel before police moved in. And while the weather may have discouraged some, the strong support that did show up made it clear they are not going away.

“We’ll keep going,” said Lee, 42, a university professor in public policy wearing a button with her 4-year-old son’s picture. “It doesn’t stop here.”

The day was organized by Occupy SF and numerous other groups. It started before sunrise, with sometimes overlapping demonstrations focusing on corporate greed, foreclosures, war and immigration crackdowns. Demonstrators noted their connections, such as profits from building incarceration facilities. There were a few breaks, but for the most part the rain was constant.

Lee was among the larger actions, with dozens of others blocking all four sides of the bank headquarters, and employees also having to stay outside. Even after police in riot gear moved in to arrest those on the north side of the building, Lee, who had never been arrested before, wasn’t worried if the police would arrest her. She said others, such as undocumented immigrants and people living paycheck-to-paycheck, have also taken a stand.

“It’s a small price to pay,” she said.

Demonstrators also blocked a nearby Bank of America, and eventually shut down the street. While signs and speeches delivered the message, a bus equipped with a sound system also gave it party-like atmosphere. Police mostly kept watch. One police sergeant reached out to demonstrators, using their megaphone and asking for common understanding. He got mixed reactions, with some saying he should get a chance to speak and others saying that police are the enemy.

A bus equipped with protest paraphernalia and a sound system provided a party atmosphere to the protest of bank foreclosures in San Francisco's financial district.

Other demonstrations were not as tense, such as one where bands, with electricity provided by generators running on bicycles, played underneath a tarp being held down by audience members.

Chris Tule, 26, of Pleasant Hill was with a demonstration at the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals highlighting the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision, a ruling that opens the flood gates for unlimited political spending by corporations and unions.

Tule, who has been more involved with Occupy Oakland, said police raids on the camp there have made it harder to organize. He said it’s hard to say if the movement is growing or declining, with much being done now with social networking web sites and other means. He remains committed to the cause.

“Even if it’s three people, I’ll be here with a sign,” said Tule, an independent computer consultant. “The alternative is dong nothing, and that makes sure nothing will get accomplished.”

Occupy protesters maintained a day-long vigil outside the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco to protest corporate personhood. Photo by Luke Thomas.

The day’s events culminated with an evening march from the Ferry Building to the now-closed, 600-room Cathedral Hill Hotel owned by California Pacific Medical Center. Activists say it should be used for housing, and it has been a target in the past. Police in riot gear were waiting, with barricades set up at the front entrance.

After a small skirmish the march continued away from the hotel.

While organizers pressed for peaceful action throughout the day, a small group smashed the large windows of a Bentley car dealership on Van Ness Ave. Marchers circled back to the hotel, where a group of others had gotten through. A DJ played music and many went in to explore, with some hanging banners and spray-painting messages on the outside. After a few hours, and during what seemed like the night’s heaviest downpour, police closed the sidewalk while other officers went in. Media reports said only a few were arrested, with those who wanted to go peacefully allowed to leave. However, many others simply found other exits and avoided the cops altogether.

Police spokesman Carlos Manfredi, who described the events before the hotel standoff as peaceful, said it was hard to say how many were involved throughout the day, with estimates ranging from 400 to 700. He also said it was hard to say how big the event was in relation to other Occupy events in the city – it is often the site of many demonstrations that can be much larger.

However, Gene Doherty, of the Occupy SF communications group, said it was the biggest since the movement started, estimating at least 1,500 involved in the protests and marches. Previously, the largest protest was a call for support for a threatened police raid on the OccupySF encampment at Justin Herman Plaza, which drew about half that, he said. He said the day was successful, with the movement evolving to include more groups and learning lessons for the future as they continue.

Eric Louie is covering the Bay Area Occupy movements for the Communication Workers of America and Pacific Media Workers Guild.

Eric Louie

Eric Louie

Eric Louie is a reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared in Greenbiz.com, Contra Costa Times, The Record ( (Stockton), Philippine News, Pacific News Service and the Sunset Beacon.

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3 Comments

Comments for Occupy West Protesters Decry Bank Foreclosures, Corporate Personhood are now closed.

  1. Thanks, Luke. I will. The Bay Citizen published a piece yesterday that seems to say there’s still no deal, though this focuses on the resistance of local legislators, not on his negotiations with all 50 State Attorneys General to relieve banks of liability: http://www.baycitizen.org/housing/story/bay-area-politicos-foreclosure-falls/

  2. Luke Thomas

    Ann, check the following Bill Moyers interviews. They provide deep insight into crony capitalism, the cozy relationship between Washington and Wall Street, and the ensuing bailout and economic crash.

    http://billmoyers.com/segment/gretchen-morgenson-on-industry-influence/

    http://billmoyers.com/segment/david-stockman-on-crony-capitalism/

    Luke

  3. Obama seems to have been preparing to announce, in tonight’s State of the Union, some sort of sweeping judicial immunity for the big banks, for all the robo-signing and who knows how many more violations of the law in the predatory lending, securitization, foreclosure disaster. And I don’t think the State Attorney Generals he’s been trying to negotiate with have yet touched more than the tip of the iceberg of what actually happened.