By Ezra Silk
SAN FRANCISCO — Although the major Bay Area occupations have been disbanded, the Occupy scene here is alive and kicking. Throughout the week, the former Occupiers attend working groups and general assemblies in public plazas and the lobbies of various corporate edifices. On the weekends, there are anti-foreclosure protests at local bank branches. In the East Bay, Oakland activists continue to confront the cops, holding anti-police brutality marches and suffering multiple arrests, as they sketch out plans to take over a building in late January and convert it into a community space.
In San Francisco, there is considerable excitement over Occupy Wall Street West, the mass action scheduled for January 20th that is intended to reflect the decentralized, hybrid nature of the Occupy movement.
On Saturday, Ryan Brill and I ventured through the Tenderloin, past pin-striped pimps, un-permitted sidewalk knife vendors, and an open air drug market, to the Unite-Here Local 2 union hall, where the Occupy SF Action Council was meeting to plan the “#J20” action. I made the rookie mistake of carrying my laptop (in a magenta-hued laptop bag) through the Tenderloin. On one particularly seedy street corner, I overheard one of the local — let’s call them occupiers — quite audibly whisper to his colleague, as he eyed my laptop: “Go grab that bag, motherfucker!”
Fortunately, this potentially remunerative advice was left unheeded, and we arrived at Local 2 with our possessions in hand. The meeting was half over, and the room was bustling with a variety of professional leftists and hardcore local activists, in a scene not unlike the opening moments of “Zabriskie Point.” Posted on the wall, next to an “Occupy the Present” yoga flyer, was a yellow index card that simply read, “60’s.”
On the 20th, it was said, the occupiers will mass in the San Francisco financial district, fan out across the city, and attempt to disrupt the operations of various bank headquarters and branches during business hours. Others will head to the Federal Courthouse to protest corporate personhood. Occupiers will also be frying squid in front of Goldman Sachs, in honor of Matt Taibbi’s now-legendary characterization of the bank as the “Giant Vampire Squid,” performing music all day at Justin Herman Plaza, “liberating” a foreclosed building in the financial district, and picketing the Grand Hyatt hotel with Hyatt workers (according to the Occupiers, Hyatt lobbied for their eviction last month).
The scope of the organizers’ ambition was unclear. I wasn’t able to confirm whether they were hoping to literally shut down the Big Bank headquarters. According to the website for the event, the occupiers will dress “bank smart” and attempt to “disrupt the flow of banks and ATMs throughout the day.” Either way, the idea is, for one day, to illustrate, and confront, the Big Banks’ sprawling influence over the city, in its entirety. On one poster for the event, a young woman, vaguely reminiscent of Batwoman, slams an emerging Octopus back into a corporate office tower. One Octopus tentacle reads “Austerity,” another “Foreclosures,” and a third, “Corporate Personhood.”
Anyway, I’ll be posting more on the Bay Area Occupy scene in the next few days. Now that I have returned from Big Sur and secured my computer, I will be posting much more frequently. Sorry for the long hiatus.