OccupySF: The Day of the BarricadesOctober 9th, 2011
At a congressional hearing Wednesday, Ben Bernanke commented on the Occupy Movement saying, “They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can’t blame them.” But they can certainly blame him. On the streets of San Francisco protesters are calling out Ben Bernanke by name demanding that he be prosecuted and imprisoned for what they say amounts to treason and crimes against humanity.
I just got back from three days and two nights sleeping on the streets with OccupySF, which is the San Francisco manifestation of the Occupy Movement. What began on September 17th with six people people set up in front of the Federal Reserve peaked Friday night when 800 protesters completely blocked off Market Street. We’ll get to that, but I want to do this in chronological order, because there’s a lot to cover.
By Wednesday night OccupySF consisted of approximately 200 protesters who built a tent city on the grounds of the Federal Reserve Building. The encampment included a working kitchen with propane powered stove, a communications center with power generator, and an infirmary. All supplies from food to medical supplies had been donated by their supporters. Although they had previously been told the tents would be permitted, Wednesday night they received orders from the SFPD that they would need to be taken down. The campers complied with these orders.
At 2:00 am Thursday morning 80 officers wearing riot helmets and carrying batons raided the encampment anyway. Police formed a perimeter separating the protesters from their supplies as the Department of Public Works seized nine truckloads of tents, communications equipment, medical supplies, food and other donations.
About fifty protesters responded with peaceful civil disobedience, standing in front of the trucks, and forming a human chain to impede them from stealing their supplies. Police responded by cracking skulls, which protesters say was excessive force. You be the judge. The first blow from the police occurs one minute in.
Only one arrest was made, but at least three protesters sustained injuries including a 17 year old girl who was punched and thrown to the ground simply for standing too close. One officer reportedly told another activist, “I can’t wait to beat your face in.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) are now both involved to help OccupySF explore their legal options. Many are arguing that the raid on the encampment, and the demands themselves were not in accordance with law. The police have since erected a metal barricade blocking off the Federal Reserve grounds and have officers on guard around the clock until further notice. OccupySF has pledged to hold the occupation on the wide sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve, but it’s just sleeping bags for now.
OccupySF issued the following statement Thursday morning after the raid:
Last night the SFPD issued us an unsigned, undated notice that declared we had to pack up our tents without giving us a timeline or else we would risk arrest. They said that we could remain occupying if we pulled down our tents and complied with their other demands. We complied with their demands by taking down our tents and beginning to clear-out the rest of our infrastructure that was allegedly in violation of City and/or State laws. We made a call to action. Our numbers doubled within half an hour. Yet still, the police, wearing helmets and carrying batons, formed a perimeter around our goods and prevented us from saving anything while they supervised Public Works employees as they stole everything. The police stole food, water, shelter, and other necessities of life from the 99% at Occupy SF.
After the ACLU and NLG involvement police received orders from above to respect the peaceful protesters. The camp was informed that they would not be permitted to build any tent structures or cook any food, but would be permitted to occupy the space.
There’s a lot more to cover, but I’m headed back out there and might not find a wifi connection again for while.