By Kat Anderson
January 21, 2012
Soggy, but undaunted, Occupy activists pulled off a coordinated day of action Friday in San Francisco that highlighted banks’ role in bringing citizens of the 99 percent to their financial knees.
Protesters also decried the role that the Supreme Court case Citizens United, now two years old, has played in pulling representative democracy out of the grasp of ordinary citizens. As many as 2,000 protesters took part in all of the activities. Thirteen people were arrested in actions at Wells Fargo and Bank of America.
Threaded throughout the Financial District, Occupy affinity groups engaged in various forms of non-violent activity such as chaining themselves with lock boxes to all the entrances to Wells Fargo’s headquarters on California Street, staging a rally at the “bankers heart” sculpture at the foot of the Bank of America building, performing guerrilla theater as military personnel arresting “terrorists” (American citizens), and marching from Justin Herman Plaza throughout the financial district.
The centerpiece of the financial district protests was Wells Fargo Bank headquarters on California Street. Dozens of activists barricaded all entrances to the building, criss-crossing the entryways with “Crime Scene” tape and forming human chains at the doors with PVC pipe (lock boxes). A rally of hundreds dotted by umbrellas, rain slickers and picket signs carried the message, “Wells Fargo, you can’t hide.” A banner reading, “We are unstoppable” was unfurled across the California Street entrance. Cops in riot gear and yellow rain slickers flanked the bank building, placing extra security nearest the bank’s money vaults.
Buff Bradley of the affinity group “Disturbed Occupants” told Fog City Journal, “We hold Wells Fargo Bank accountable not only for the financial crisis, but for profiting off the misery caused by the financial crisis.” At his feet sat a living room scene with empty chairs holding “Foreclosed” and “Lost our home” signs. He accompanied two young people, a brother and sister, who had been chained to the Wells Fargo doors since 6:45 am. They were there because their parents had lost the family home to foreclosure. They would identify themselves only as “99 percenters.”
SFPD got nasty just a few hundred yards away at the Bank of America building. While attempting to arrest a young man, the cops were surrounded by Occupy activists who implored them to let the man go. The cops tried to retreat into the Bank of America garage, but the portico was gated from ground to ceiling. They were trapped. A garage employee refused the cops’ request to lift the gate. Backup arrived in the form of about 20 motorcycle cops. Baton-wielding officers forcefully pushed the crowd away to free the trapped cops. The young man was carried off to the paddy wagon.
In guerrilla theater, Iraq Veterans for Peace dressed as military personnel “randomly” selected activists for arrest as terrorists. They pushed “arrestees” to their knees, hooded them and bound their hands. These scenes were designed to bring attention to the NDAA, National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a provision that all US citizens can be arrested by military police anywhere and held indefinitely without due process of law if suspected of terrorist activity.
Several hundred marchers comprising dozens of Occupy affinity groups such as Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Causa Justa, United Service Workers West, and SF Interfaith Allies for Occupy moved from Justin Herman Plaza through the financial district, snarling traffic and beaconing to the folks in suits to join them.
FCJ talked with Episcopal Father Fred Merrick, ret., and Rabbi Moshe Levin of Congregation Ner Tamid as they paused at Wells Fargo, holding a sign that read, “People of Faith For a Moral Economy.” Rabbi Levin pointed to the “Crime Scene” tape. “I think that we’re all here because of the words on that yellow tape,” he said. The Rabbi said he purposely came to the march dressed in a suit and tie because he realized “the 99 percent aren’t just those who sleep in sleeping bags, but who also make the sleeping bags, and there are those that are Subway franchise owners, and those standing in the windows of Chase Bank and looking down on this march. They are the 99 percent, too.”
FCJ checked out the scene at the Ninth Circuit court at 7th and Mission. A couple dozen people congregated around a sign that read, “Dollars are not Citizens.” They chalked messages on the sidewalks such as, “Amend the Constitution 28th Amendment End Corporate Personhood,” “Corporations are Not People,” and “Impeach Jay Bybee for Torture.”
FCJ returned to the proving ground of Occupy SF, the area near the Federal Reserve Bank. The People’s Food Bank of America was set up in front of the Bank of America ATM machines on Market Street. Hot soup and bread were offered to one and all. About 100 people congregated there. Every person was filled with peaceful good cheer. Their flyers and postcards, however, were tattered by rain, and not many passersby wanted to engage in dialogue given the bad weather.
All in all, there was an impressive showing of a variety of actions with clear messages about economic injustice, pandering to corporate greed, and a stripping away of Americans’ rights under the guise of “anti-terrorism” policy. We expect that Occupy Wall Street West will consider the day, which they call “J20” a success.