Mic Check

Written by FCJ Editor. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on November 28, 2011 with 9 Comments

Chance Martin at OccupySF. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Chance Martin, special to FogCityJournal.com

November 28, 2011

By the time many of you read this, Mayor Ed Lee and the City and County of San Francisco will have concluded a Monday morning meeting to determine the fate of OccupySF’s last remaining open encampment at Justin Herman Bradley Manning Plaza. What little information we’ve managed to gather from Mohammed Neru, our City liaison, is that the discussion will involve a proposal to offer OccupySF a location far from our corporate and financial adversaries. The other tidbit was that the long-threatened police raid will likely occur Tuesday or Wednesday night, more likely meaning the wee hours of Wednesday or Thursday morning.

OccupySF felt we could safely rely on no raids during the holiday, and Mr. Neru’s vague reassurances Thanksgiving Day provided limited confirmation for our compiled educated guesses, so we enjoyed a four day respite from our vigil against the inevitable outcome–complete with two days of hot holiday feasts kindly provided by Glide, the Interfaith Council, and other good-hearted folks. On Saturday, we began holding preliminary discussions for the urgent discussions we anticipate after we learn the City’s final proscription.

Department of Public Works interim Director Mohammed Nuru.

Will the City’s stance be all-stick-and-no-carrot?

It really doesn’t matter, at least not to OccupySF, because our Camp in the plaza isn’t going anywhere.

Similar offerings are being turned down by other surviving urban Occupations, and the writing on the wall says San Francisco will be no different. And yes, the Carrot the City dangles sounds mighty damned tempting to those of us with backgrounds in community development, to say nothing of potentials now thwarted by Winter’s arrival in the Camp, and the possibility of ongoing organizing work someplace where arthritis’s bite is not so deep or frequent.

Despite whatever starry-eyed visions such possibly-prospective submissions might inspire, the common wisdom among community organizers here is that any deal the City and County makes with a protester is only a diversion. And on those rare occasions when something does materialize, it then becomes the vehicle for co-opting the bite out of our message, or just an outright trap.

There are other factors at work as well. First off, the proposed site could only accommodate about half of our remaining Camp. Ironically, the liaisons representing OccupySF in discussions with the Mayor and City officials report no opportunity to talk about securing the additional space we need for our current demonstrators… it never even made the agenda. So we’re left attempting to make do in a camp with a reduced footprint, no hot food preparations permitted on-site, and numbly recovering from prior raids successful, unsuccessful, and postponed.

We have complied with every requirement the City says is motivated out of concern for our health and safety, at least those for which compliance is even remotely possible, yet this relentless ratcheting-down of our ability to sustain ourselves and our activities clearly indicates underlying lack of good faith on the City’s part. Any City offer can rightfully be recognized as a ploy to reduce our numbers and remove us from the 1% we seek to discomfit.

Could we really expect any different?

Then too, there’s the question of the homeless folks who’ve joined OccupySF. It’s not like we can now abandon them to the imminent predations of the SFPD and DPW tag-team that would soon follow OccupySF’s departure. The homeless population that San Francisco‘s corporate media now studiously ignores for the further reification Lt. Governor Newsom’s smoke-and-mirrors gambit in the furtherance of his political ambitions are at last revealed as the canaries-in-the-coal-mine, the stark warning that something has been fundamentally broke with the U.S. economy for far longer than it took for that story to finally rise to headline status. Many of our homeless campers are experiencing the first community and safety they’ve known for a long time. Whether OccupySF chooses to move into the Mission District or not, we will never abandon our homeless sisters and brothers. Our shared values of fairness, equality, and non-violence mean that even if OccupySF did decide to take the City’s bait, we can’t leave anyone behind. Veterans around our Camp appreciate that more than most.

Finally, there’s the prospect of convincing our growing flock to completely agree, down to the last person, that we’ll migrate to fairer conditions. That simply isn’t going to happen. By Sunday afternoon, the divide became apparent, and many here concluded that their dreams of a safe space for us to do our work—and there is a lot of work to do—isn’t likely to come at the hands of a Mayor who everybody knows first lied when he declared that he would not seek election.

Here’s where it gets personal. I’m a son and a father and a grandfather. I’m a disabled Vet. I’ve spent much of the last twenty years of my life in locations like this screaming that homeless people don’t enjoy the same fundamental Rights as the people who were lucky enough to escape the opening salvos in the economic war we Americans all now face. Guess what? We’ve gathered together down at Justin Herman Bradley Manning Plaza only to discover, just like our homeless brothers and sisters in the 99%, that those inalienable Rights of ours become the thinnest of vapors when held to the light that’s finally being cast on America’s true situation.

Our intrinsic values as human beings have been reduced to line items on the 1%’s balance sheet.

I walked away from OccupySF’s camp on Sunday deeply disappointed that we can’t negotiate in good faith with the City and County of San Francisco. I thought about that document I’ve raised my right hand and swore to uphold on at least three occasions: The Constitution of the United States of America. Call me crazy, but I still want to believe we can resurrect the promise to all Americans that quaint scrap of hemp paper enshrines.

I’ll be right here, standing with OccupySF, to defend our Constitutional Rights of Free Assembly and Free Speech. I will wait for the teargas and batons night after cold, sleepless night. I promise you that I’ll worry about my safety (I turn 57 on December 2nd), and the safety of Occupiers more vulnerable than myself, but we’ll ALL be waiting here. And after the gas clears and DPW departs with their latest haul of mostly public donations, WE’LL BE BACK.

Every police action against OccupySF has only served to increase our numbers and steel our resolve. WE’LL COME BACK STRONGER.

And we’ll continue coming back for as long as it takes to complete our work.

We will probably pay a heavy price, but not as great as those who come after us will if we don’t see this through. Along the way, we expect we will find out what it really means to be ALIVE.

Until then, we need to stay healthy, we need to stay strong, we need to stay focused, and we need to be fearless.
We are.

But most importantly, We – the Mighty 99% – must always remember to confront our oppressors in Peace.

Our only defense is our Love.

We aren’t the folks with the guns. We aren’t criminalizing anyone or taking away their rights. We haven’t put thousands upon thousands of families out of their homes. We don’t evade our responsibility to care for seniors, veterans, disabled and sick people. We’ve never used the vast reaches of mainstream media to fan the flames of fear and hate. We aren’t poisoning the planet to improve a quarterly statement. We don’t prioritize building atomic submarines over building low-income housing. We don’t want to sacrifice 10 to 20 American lives daily colonizing Afghanistan for the sake of an oil pipeline, and then pass the bill on our children and grandchildren.
We don’t author human suffering for wealth’s sake.

We have simply determined that we refuse to surrender our rights or our dignity. We will not disappear or cease to exist.

We will Occupy.


We are the 99 percent!


Comments for Mic Check are now closed.

  1. i dunno…i think “the 99%” makes a whole lotta sense. the culprit is the system. we created it, we can tweak it. if the tax burden is shifted so that the wealthy remain wealthy but give back to society, then there will be enough to fund needed services so that others may thrive. the only services that should exist are the ones we need.

    Ultimately, it’s the 100%…if you look at this problem as a system that produces greed, conditions people in this vein, and conditions one to value money over everything else (such as the health of the planet), I can cut em just a little slack…habits can be hard to break. But with persistence (where Occupy comes in), that 1% will relent by their own volition, as it only makes sense if you value a sustainable, healthy society. This movement is a values game (serious business) and the endgame is what should interest the 100%.

    Also, empathy plays a role, as I see it. Rich people who think that the needy just need to get up by their own boot straps suffer from a disconnection to their fellow men. Everyone’s separate, and if I’m up here and you’re down there, that’s your problem (same can be said for some poorer folk who think all rich people are evil. They’re not). This movement is also about a greater sense of spirituality whereby we see ourselves as one, as interrelated and as impacting each other. Again, it’s gonna take some work. Here’s to Mike Check.

  2. I believe the Occupy folks are making a stretch when they claim to represent the majority of Americans. While most people may agree that the tax burden is weighed too lightly on the richest Americans, I believe that is where support ends, except with the far left. I believe a larger number of Americans would like to cut Government Spending, which they believe is out of control, not increase Government spending, which appears to be a secondary goal of the Occupy movement. There are still fundamental differences in the view of the role of Government in this country, and while the Occupy movements have exposed the issue of Wealth Distribution, it appears to stagnate there.

  3. Sitting at the welcome table at Bradley Manning Plaza, I get the opportunity to discuss the occupation and related political and economic issues with folks coming and going from the ferry building as well as downtown working people.

    Universally, they support the Occupation and want for us to stand our ground, as they have been abandoned by politicians who claim to represent their interests and are glad to see folks standing up for them.

    Fuck with Occupy at your peril:


    The poll found that among registered voters in the state, 46 percent said they identify with the movement while 58 percent said they agreed with the reasons that are fueling it. Pollsters did not ask about specific reasons, leaving respondents to decide those themselves.


  4. From Larry Bush, publisher of CitiReport.com:

    There is another reason to Occupy Justin Herman Plaza and that is to connect to the history marked by Herman’s name.

    Justin Herman was the head of the local Housing and Urban Development federal agency who believed that parts is San Francisco housing lower income residents were a blight. He pushed for the removal of literally more than a hundred Victorian houses.

    The then-mayor convinced Herman to leave HUD to head the city’s Redevelopment Agency and he did plough under the historic Western Addition.

    Residents there sued that federal funds were used to remove them without an opportunity to comment about their neighborhood. They won the first ever right to be consulted in redevelopment plans in the nation.

    However the right to return and other rights came much too late. So the right did not deliver the results other than a mural highlighting the activists who fought back.

    One other change was an invigorated effort to save the city’s Victorians from destruction. A few were transported to vacant lots off Eddy Street.

    All of this was the subject of an award winning documentary broadcast on KQED on a series on neighborhoods.

    The lesson is clear: economic benefits for a few led to an entire neighborhood being labeled a blight and residents forcibly removed.

    OccupySF at Justin Herman Plaza should be a string statement that we will not allow people to be ploughed under by banks profiting from for closures or billionaires seeking to prettify an area for yacht owners.

    You one Percenters did it once but we will stand our ground because we have been here before.

    Larry Bush.

  5. The school site looks to me a lot@ like the “protest pit” in Staples Center’s parking lot at D2KLA.

    NOT someplace I’d like to be when the po-poes come for me.

  6. The most crucial spaces we must occupy are the hearts and minds of the people.

    We will overcome! Venceremos! Makibaka!

  7. Great shots, Steve! The Mission site looks like a prison camp.

  8. Just a minor correction … OccupySF actually has a brand new mini-camp springing up across the street from the old camp at at the Fed. I visited last night and got some snaps.


    As far as the Mish is concerned, I agree with you that OccupySF shouldn’t go. The area is totally devoid of the people Occupy is trying to reach with their message. It’s a desolate block of the city. Mayor Lee would love to bury OccupySF there and forget about them.

    I have some snaps of the proposed lot. It’s a great spot for a homeless camp. Not so great for a political movement.


    Stay strong.

    Steve L

  9. Clearly, San Francisco officials want OccupySF to in an out-of-sight location. But OccupySF knows it needs to be in the face of every day citizens as a constant reminder of what is at stake.