It was only a matter of time until the Occupy Wall Street movement came to one of the nation’s most renowned bastions of protest, and the local effort appears to be growing.
The so-called “General Assembly” of the Occupy SF movement has built a growing makeshift camp on Market Street this week and plan a march to the Federal Reserve Bank at noon today. The group began as a gathering of roughly 10 people camping outside the Bank of America building on California Street on Sept. 17, the same day the flagship encampment was set up in Zuccotti Park, two blocks north of Wall Street in New York.
Protesters march in downtown San Francisco to Wells Fargo headquarters.
The Occupy Wall Street protests have spread from Los Angeles to Boston; Chicago; Portland, Maine, and other cities. The budding anti-Wall Street movement began last month with a vague sense of grievance over the widening gap between the rich and poor in America.
But in three weeks, it has provided fuel for a broader national message of financial despair. Protesters have spoken out about the lack of jobs and opportubities. Organizers in Washington, D.C., plan a march at Freedom Plaza on Thursday to “denounce the systems and institutions that support endless war and unrestrained corporate greed.”
Brought together by social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, participants hope the New York protests can plant the seeds of a permanent national movement.
In San Francisco, protesters initially spent about a week at the Bank of America building at 555 California St. The group then moved to Union Square until they were asked to leave after about a day. That is when they began building a semi-permanent camp on Market Street, complete with tents and a makeshift cooking area under a blue tarp held up between trees and bushes.
As of Tuesday afternoon, about 40 people were setting up for a rainy night and some protesters said police had already asked them to move. Rob Benson, one of the protesters in his late 30s, said police asked them to get a permit from the Department of Public Works, then they were redirected to another city department, then back to the police.
“You can’t permit the right to assemble,” Benson said, adding that the group is attempting to maintain good relations with police. “It’s a right.”
A poster being circulated by the group calls on protesters to show up at the Federal Reserve Building at noon today. The material is being distributed on the website occupysf.com, which also is encouraging people to bring supplies for long-term camping, plus gardening equipment, art supplies, baby wipes and kiddie pools. The site also asks protesters to bring solar-powered chargers and smartphones with tethering capabilities to give the group roaming Internet access.
The scene Tuesday included casual interaction, tambourine playing, marijuana smoking and other fanfare. Tarek Mejri, 34, was cooking up a big pot of vegetable pasta, which he said was donated by a local farmers market.
“Everything you see here is donated,” Mejri said.