OccupySF to “Liberate” Vacant Building

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in Events, News, Politics

Tagged: , ,

Published on March 30, 2012 with 15 Comments

OccupySF. File photo by Luke Thomas.

By Luke Thomas

Editor’s Note:  Sunday’s direct action has been organized by an autonomous “affinity” group within OccupySF, identified as “San Francisco Commune.”

March 30, 2012

Learning from Occupy Oakland’s foiled plan to occupy the Kaiser Convention Center on January 28, a plan which was met with a phalanx of tear gas wielding, riot-clad police officers – OccupySF announced today its plan to “liberate” a similarly vacant building in San Francisco on Sunday.

“On Sunday, April 1st, in solidarity with the Western Regional Advocacy Project’s ‘We Won’t Get Fooled Again’ National Day of Action for the rights of the un-housed, Occupy SF working groups & affinity groups are liberating a vacant building and converting it into a social center, shelter and food bank for the people,” the group said in a press statement. “We have already demonstrated, for 82 days, what is possible when a space is liberated and reclaimed. The encampments at 101 Market St and Justin Herman \ Bradley Manning Plaza were successful experiments in non-hierarchical organizing where resources were shared in a gift economy and collective decisions made through consensus, while food, shelter and medical care were provided to the greater community.

“This action on Sunday is not a temporary protest, but a permanent occupation intended to establish a social center. We will transform this vacant building into a productive and vibrant space, just as we did in the plaza occupation, and we wish others to take similar actions and more.”

The building location will not be disclosed, organizers say, until OccupySF marchers arrive at the secret location following a 4 pm rally at Union Square. Only a few organizers are aware of the building location, an organizer told Fog City Journal, and stressed the direct action will be peaceful, non-violent and will not result in property damage.

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the SanFranciscoSentinel.com, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched FogCityJournal.com. The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7×7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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  • marc

    I really hope that this works, but the Anarchist Book Fair is going on across town as is St. Stupid’s Day parade.

    Hope they’ve got something else planned than the usual HNJ occupation that is fun for a while, but is never sustained.

  • Ann Garrison

    This seems wise:

    “Only a few organizers are aware of the building location, an organizer told Fog City Journal, and stressed the direct action will be peaceful, non-violent and will not result in property damage.”

    But, I don’t think I understand what sort of advantage those attempting to Occupy a building would hope to gain by announcing it beforehand.

  • Hope Forpeace

    I would like to submit – when you take illegal action, such as this, you ensure the majority of Americans will not support you, march with you or organize with you.

    The ensuing fight over the take over of private property in the news will be easily used to paint you as radical communists.

    I thought the idea was to effect legislation.

    You will never do that in small groups who alienate the public with illegal actions.

    Do you guys think they will turn the pink slip to the building over? Or will they fight you until they drag you out?

  • Daniele E.

    I like the idea of “liberating” a vacant building. Reminds me of what a sculptor would say about a block of stone: I just freed the work of art that was already inside…
    I think much of what Occupy is doing is changing the way people see. Whether this is successful or not, hopefully it will make headlines and more and more peope will ask “why not”, which also reminds me of that famous RFK quote: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

  • Chance Martin

    @Marc: St. Stupid’s Parade is well aware of the 2pm performance in Union Square followed by a 4pm March… they will end their parade about the time the performance starts and we have extended every welcome for them to come join us. HNJ and the SF Commune folks will be flyering at the bookfair today and tomorrow, so we’re hoping the turnout will actually be increased.

    @Ann: The decision to announce the takeover ahead of time was largely due to someone blurting out the plan at a GA which was being livestreamed. Less than ideal, but we gotta work with what we have. The location, however, requires a need-to-know, so I won’t even know until someone tells me the 4pm March’s destination.

    @Hope: I don’t have ANY idea WHAT Occupy YOU’VE been exposed to, but I don’t think I’m talking out of school when I offer that the reason most of us are in the streets is because we have lost all faith in government. As far as legislation goes, the Occupy Education folks just had a great object lesson in what fickle allies unions can be vis a vis the Millionaire’s Tax. So, I think it’s safe to assume that your feel for the Pulse of “the majority of Americans” is at least as faulty as your understanding of what Occupy is doing. That’s why we employ Mic Check at our meetings… it refines the thought and eliminates a lot of the ego-driven drivel.

    @Dannielle: Thank you!

  • Ann Garrison

    I’ll be interested to see whether any electeds join or defend you in this one. We do have the recent precedent of George Clooney and a handful of Members of the House of Representatives getting arrested at the Sudanese Embassy in D.C. demonstrating for the introduction of more U.S. Special Forces into the oil and border war between Sudan and South Sudan.

  • Anonymous

    Ann: The advantage is numbers… this advantage has been proven to garner us more power in the past.

    Hope: We are radicals! But so were civil rights leaders. And actually, so are the politicians leading our country. This is a time of radical ideas. Also, many people actually do run successful housing out of vacant buildings. You just dont learn about it in school. And no, I do not want a pink slip to the building. That isn’t necessary.

  • Alex Regenerate

    Ann: The advantage is numbers… this advantage has been proven to garner us more power in the past.

    Hope: We are radicals! But so were civil rights leaders. And actually, so are the politicians leading our country. This is a time of radical ideas. Also, many people actually do run successful housing out of vacant buildings. You just dont learn about it in school. And no, I do not want a pink slip to the building. That isn’t necessary.

  • el Greco

    Perhaps the liberated building could house Mirkarimi? I’m sure he could use a break on the rent that Agnos has to charge him. Maybe even put a domestic violence program in the building too? That would be super convenient for him. I could donate an old futon if that would help him.

  • Daniele E.
  • el Greco

    A blue meanie? Heavens, no. More like April 1st.

  • marc

    Yep, another case of the poverty nonprofits hijacking OSF for their own purposes via yet another front group, “The San Francisco Commune,” because “Occupy Wall Street West” worked so well on J20.

    Occupy Wall Street is not a poverty campaign. It is a campaign against Wall Street. Contaminating OSF by grafting the failures of the progressive housing program onto it is deadly. Perhaps the nonprofits will be rewarded by their grant funders for administering this coup d’grace?

    Progressives all opposed Prop L, Sit/Lie. How does it grow the movement to be promoting the losing side of a ballot measure when 2/3 of San Franciscans support going after Wall Street?

    Professional advocates/activists have had their chance, and they’ve run the progressive movement in SF off of a cliff. For some reason, many of them still get paid after losing election after election by focusing on what is important to the advocates/activists rather what is important to San Franciscans. Why is that?

    OSF should redouble its efforts to marginalize these nonprofit clowns before they run OSF off of a cliff as well.

  • Daniele E.

    @marc,
    bah, humbug!
    “Occupy Wall Street is not a poverty campaign. It is a campaign against Wall Street.”

    First of all, It is always wiser to say what you stand for and not term yourself on what you don’t want.
    I see Occupy Wall Street (which is just a convenient name it started under) as being about a thriving society for all. Period. And all that would imply. In this case, they see a vacant building, they see the homeless and many people with unmet needs. They are saying : Let’s act and get those needs met, so that more may thrive.
    I say, Bravo to “OWS”, or whatever group would be so moved.
    I heard the news on KCBS radio this morning–KCBS being the classic “mainstream” news outlet. Which harkens back to my previous comment here. Regular folk, who are not on the “progressive frontlines” need to hear stories like this because that is what will get more people to see that so much more could be done if only we activated our imaginations and ran with it.

  • marc

    @Danielle, look either we identify what does not work and stop doing that and identify what does work and do more of that or we do not adapt to win.

    The reason why OWS has been much more successful than nonprofit advocacy is because it has taken a different approach, an approach that addresses the needs of the 99%.

    One reason why traditional progressive and liberal advocacy and activism has failed is because it does not have a place for most folks in its worldview, preferring to capitalize on what once were reserves of liberal guilt to address the problems of “the most vulnerable” instead of enlisting the 99% to move a broad agenda for change.

    Another reason why progressive and liberal advocacy has failed is because it is activist/advocate centered, in that activists and advocates advance THEIR priorities irrespective of what the priorities are of the 99%. There is a zen to successful politics where the good of the few are advanced when the good of the many are advanced.

    Many activists/advocates fixated on victimhood fear that the many will forget the few if the many advance and will hold back or negotiate away significant advances for the many in order to get crumbs for the few.

    Occupy represents a moment of punctuated equilibrium where the failed approach of the past 20 years is being superseded by eventualities. Every time that Occupy diverges from Wall Street’s crimes, it dilutes its potency.

  • Daniele E.

    But “Wall Street’s crimes”, important as those are, is so narrow. What does taxing the rich, which I think is very important in this movement, have to do with Wall Street?

    But again, I think putting in the spotlight what is missing, ie using our resources to care–whether they come in the form of excess reserves of a millionaire, or a vacant building, is what I love about this movement.

    All that’s happening, on a psychological level, is the grooving of a new world-view, and grooving is what will make it take hold.