Why are you camping out and banging drums? Why don't you go after the banks?
Yesterday, in San Francisco, Occupiers did just that.
The entire financial district (and beyond) became the stage for OccupyWallStWest, as multiple bank shutdowns and other protests took place over the course of the day.
It started out small. It was, to be fair, the most miserable day weather-wise in the Bay Area since the Occupy Movement began. Ask yourself this -- would YOU get up at 5:00 AM and go out in the cold rain to watch a giant vampire squid and a black blob, or to sit on cold concrete in front of a bank?
Black Blob meets Kossack Kith (2nd from right)
By noon there were perhaps 1000 people spread out over the Financial District; by 6:00 PM, there were two or three times that. It was a day of a few rallies, but mostly smaller actions at banks, the courts and federal buildings. Foreclosures and Citizens' United were the day's standout villains.
Many of these actions deserve a story of their own. I can only tell you about one.
Fortunately, it's a good one. Let me try.
The Bank of America branch on Montgomery St. between California and Pine stayed eyes-wide shut from 8:00 AM until the Occupiers declared victory at 6:00 PM. Not a single customer made it into that bank; the only two people I ever saw inside it were a lone security guard and a bank official.
Starting around 8:00 AM, some seven people formed a combined human metal-tube chain across the entrance to BofA. There they stayed, alternatively standing and sitting, for ten hours.
In their first encounter with the police some time before noon they were told that if they didn't leave, they would be arrested when the police came back. They stayed.
By 1:00 PM, they had all but been forgotten by the larger protests, which had kicked off with a noon march at Justin Herman / Bradley Manning Plaza, some eight blocks away. Only a few Occupiers were left in support of the seven man crew.
They then had a second encounter with the San Francisco police. The police asked them whether they wanted to be arrested as an act of civil disobedience, or whether they were going to leave. Again they stayed.
Then the word went out.
-- tweeter blacked out --
Bank of America on montgomery & California shutdown SFPD said would be back. Need support #OO #OccupyOakland
-- tweeter blacked out --
Riot police are moving to the #BankofAmerica at California and Montgomery. Please go there for support! #OWSwest #OO #Occupy!!
Retweeted by -- blacked out --
The Marines arrived before the police. Literally. The Iraq Veterans Against the War, Scott Olsen and his squad, came from their organizing meeting a block away and did some street theater in front of the blockaders, protesting the NDAA.
That attracted a few Occupiers while others started responding to the tweets.
The police, five or six of them, arrived for a third time, with the obvious intention of arresting the blockaders. But by that time enough people had gathered that five police were not going to be enough. Forming a mass around the police and the blockaders, protesters started chanting
Shame! Shame! Shame On You!
The police decided that a tactical retreat was in order, and moved aside. Some minutes later another squadron of police arrived.
OccupyOakland Occupy Oakland
#OccupyOakland #OO & #OSF have wells Fargo on Montgomery & California shutdown SFPD r here but there r 2 many of us twitpic.com/89ne71
(Note: The tweeter is confusing Wells Fargo with BofA. Hell, they all look like giant vampire squids; so it's completely understandable.)
Two annoucements had also been made, one at the ongoing protest march, and one at a protest rally in front of the ICE building: BODIES WERE NEEDED AT BOFA. People had started pouring into the BofA block between California and Pine. By the time the additional police squadron arrived there were hundreds of people, all with single-minded intent of not letting the police anywhere near the blockaders.
What you see here are the fifteen or so police off to the side of the blockaded Bank of America entrance, which is to the right. What you don't see are the hundreds of protesters also to the right, directly surrounding the blockaders and in the street and on the opposite sidewalk.
Whose Streets? Our Streets!
Whose Homes? Our Homes!
Whose Bank? Our Bank!
Banks Got Bailed Out! We Got Sold Out!
The situation became tense. Some Occupy Oaklanders who were there, victims and witnesses to tear-gassing, beatings and police brutality across the Bay, were in no mood to put up with the police presence. Things could have turned ugly very quickly. Fortunately a Police Commander arrived, taking control from a Sargeant who was clearly out of his league at this point. The commander made the wise decision to move the police down the block, away from the main body of protesters, and, a few minutes later, to send half of them on their way.
It was about 2:30 PM by that time, but the day was not yet won.
OaklandElle Elle of Oakland
Muni bus full of cops at sansome & California. #osf #J20 #owswest
A bit later, a large bus with a SPECIAL banner parked itself a block away down California St. Investigating, protesters saw that it was filled with police, possibly in riot gear. Fortunately, no orders to deploy them were ever given, and the block continued to be held by protesters.
At 5:00 PM, a large march began at Justin Herman Plaza and moved up towards the BofA branch. By 6:00 PM, there were upwards of 2,000 people at BofA.
I don't know the names of the Bank of America seven (or more) who held that entrance for ten hours or how to contact them. But credit where credit is due. These people were willing to go to jail for standing in protest against the illegal (and despicably legal) foreclosures these banks have perpetrated on millions of Americans. They remained there for ten hours, in what must have been incredibly uncomfortable positions. They deserve far more than just a round of applause and a cry out in a DKos diary. But that's probably all they will ever get. There's no mention of their tale in the newspaper articles that I've seen that have reported on the day's events.
So let us then at least toast them, and the Occupiers who stood around them in solidarity. Thank you.
-- Susie Cagle photographed the Black Blob (and survived the encounter, as far as I know)
-- Alyssa (allie123) took the photo of the police and protesters at BofA
-- The taker of the arrest warrant photograph wishes to remain anonymous
Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 8:17 AM PT: Great overview of the day's events, with lots of pictures.