“Brought to you by the people who occupy wall street.
“We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we're working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.”
For years, pundits wondered when this simmering social cauldron would boil over. On Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, random forces touched off a new American revolution.
When Adbusters, a Canadian culture-jamming magazine, called for 20,000 people to occupy Wall Street, political organizers set up camp to test sleeping in the street as social expression. On Monday, September 19, occupiers took Wall Street, successfully securing New York's financial district, blocking work and causing the market to drop. Then the NYPD moved protestors to nearby Zuccotti Park.
This spontaneous direct action spread immediately to Los Angeles, Atlanta, Kansas, Chicago, Tampa, and San Francisco.
Occupy San Francisco shares Wall Street occupiers' demands: An end to corporate personhood and greed.
The group is committed to peaceful, non-confrontational cooperation with authorities and police.
The occupation's structure is loose, leaderless, democratic, bottom up and consensus-based. Meeting feedback consists of hand gestures used globally by consensus groups. Raised hands with moving fingers indicates agreement; arms crossed over chest, disagreement; rolling arms, disinterest.
General Assemblies are held at 6:00 p.m. outdoors in the Embarcadero, with a larger Union Square GA 12:00 Saturdays.
Meetings break into working groups, trainings or committees.
Daytime activities occur at two sites: Public outreach at The Federal Reserve Building; walking the Embarcadero with signs.
Night camp beds down two blocks away at Steuart and Embarcadero.
The first camp on September 17 at 555 California, had 6 to 10 full-time campers. There is talk of retaking this camp the Police disbanded.
At Justin Herman Plaza, the core group numbered 15 to 20, sleeping, eating, and protesting. The Fri/Sept. 30, 2011 meeting numbered around 50.
Occupiers are camp-based and home-based. Some have jobs and money; some don't.
Some do remote tasks: blog-writing, the website, media projects, etc.
The Occupysf Website lists committees and working groups:
TWO OCCUPIERS: A THUMBNAIL
ROBB BENSON relocated from Arcata.
Some occupiers are college grads angered by no jobs. That's not Robb.
Watching corporations gobbling up mom and pop shops as a child drove him outside that system. Since 1992, he's been a Deadhead roadie and Pad Thai vendor.
He admits working for corporations --- rarely.
In '92 he accepted emergency food stamps. His lifestyle doesn't require much. He communicates via computer and drives a van.
If he stayed in one place, it might have been harder. But moving around in a gypsy lifestyle, it's not.
On the road in Arcata, a small town where police do whatever businesses demand, he campaigned for Ron Paul in front of a restaurant. They had him arrested for standing on the sidewalk.
He believes this is classist discrimination against poor people. Would he have the same problem in a suit, clean-shaven, with short hair?
Searching for a law library to defend his first amendment rights, he found Occupy San Francisco.
After BART cops shot and killed a homeless man, Charles Hill, Robb joined the protests.
Offended by California abusing poor people, he addressed the Board of Supervisors suggesting they draft a Declaration recognizing poor peoples' equal rights.
Robb is primarily concerned about People's sovereignty.
Sovereignty was transferred from People to corporations.
Post-civil war, industrialists and bankers opened the door with the 1871 Organic Act, establishing the United States as a federal corporation. “That's how they got our sovereignty,' he said. "They regulate us like commercial entities.”
Other occupiers believe The Supreme Court in Citizens United wrongly conferred the Rights of Persons, biological human entities, to abstract corporate entities.
Campers are scrutinizing built-in constitutional corruption.
“Everyone agrees our government doesn't follow Constitutional law. Opinions differ on how to redress it.
The Constitution is explicit, explains Robb. If, for any reason, the government doesn't follow its strictures, we, as sovereigns, have the power --- No, the duty --- to enforce or change it.
MIKE CLIFT, 44, an artist from Sacramento, bounced with his Air Force father from Maryland to Virginia, to Southern California.
Sixties “Heavy stuff” affected his generation --- Vietnam, the Jonestown massacre, Charles Manson, the moon landing, the Iran hostage crisis.
During the technological revolution, in ten years, he “went from 3 channels to 300,”
Inept presidents, drugs and corruption jump-started his high school punk-rock rebellion political awareness.
In an artillery unit in Germany from 18 to 20, his eyes opened to U.S foreign policy and corporate influence on military structure.
Unlike 'successful, shining' relatives at Exxon, BP, Jet Propulsion Labs, and Microsoft, Mike walked away from a corporate artist's salary which bought him useless 'shiny garbage.'
He believes every level of society's problems ties into corporate manipulation and wealth addiction --- people conditioned to accept things that upset them.
Empathy is disintegrating, and the interface between neighbors and family corporatized by the question, 'What is your practical value in this economic unit?' If none, we'll 'dispose of you.' If it's poor or homeless people, it's jail. With mental illness or drug problems, it's mental hospitals. Funding cuts leave “dispossessed people walking around.”
Like most occupiers, Mike, a tactical strategist, supports leading without commanding.
He believes it's crucial to help youth protect their idealism and desire for a better world. If forced to keep a job, they can lose touch with their younger self, let the world walk on them, grow old and despairing.
On a cross-country tour trying to affect social change and empower people with his art, Mike arrived in San Francisco 2-1/2 weeks ago. He is a permanent occupier.
Mike uses street theater to capture peoples' inattention, creating a space to share information.
It's important for people to see others joining – a person going to work passes five conversing. On his way home, 20 more are sitting around, engaged.
“A guy came by 555, dropped a $40 donation, and said, 'My job is on the line. I can't hang out with you guys because Upstairs is probably watching. If I lose my job and end up here, remember I was a nice guy.' He looked like a total millionaire.
“We don't want you to quit your job. Question whether it fulfills you. Is it worth laboring for something you don't believe in?”