After relentless police raids on the downtown encampments of Occupy SF, the once-mighty tent city has dwindled to only a handful of daytime protesters outside the Federal Reserve Bank on Market Street. But mavens of the highly publicized movement against U.S. wealth inequity say they have another idea in store — Occupy 2.0.
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Most of the remaining Occupiers agree: It’s cold, The City doesn’t want them there and the Justin Herman Plaza camp got out of control at times with fights and drug use. Now, they say, is the time to go inside, get warm and enter a new “educational phase.”
“There’s a lot of talk of occupying foreclosed homes,” said Kyle Lesley, who has been involved with the San Francisco group since its inception three months ago and doesn’t believe it’s just about having a camp. “And there will still be mass actions like the Oakland Port shutdown. It’s evolution. It’s part of this
Still, the camp was the movement’s namesake — and it’s what set Occupy SF apart from garden-variety local activism. Situated at the doorstep of The City’s Financial District, it was an ongoing and effective reminder of the group’s primary contention, that 99 percent of Americans are at the whim of a small minority of wealthy individuals who control banks and corporations.
“Giving up the comforts of having assured access to water, food and shelter — that was part of our sacrifice,” said Gene Doherty, an Occupier handing out fliers at the Federal Reserve on Thursday. “That’s what was causing people to give wonder to us.”
The general assembly meetings that were held nightly at the camp are now set to happen just three days a week outside the Federal Reserve. Marches and speak-outs — including a couple of dozen Occupiers demonstrating Thursday against federal immigration raids — also are still on the weekly schedule, as witnessed by Sunday’s sparsely attended visit to City Hall during the mayor’s holiday open house.
New “pop-up” occupations Friday nights are the new public outreach strategy. Beginning at
8 p.m. and ending around 2 a.m., the pop-ups take place on street corners in the Castro and Bernal Heights neighborhoods.
But without a camp, Occupiers admit there is a danger of fizzling in an environment where daily protests are already the norm.
“I think the occupation has decentralized,” said Matt, an Occupier who declined to provide his last name. “It’s now going to be about supporting these smaller autonomous groups, but from that it will spread.”
But Matt acknowledged that the Justin Herman Plaza camp “couldn’t be ignored,” and when the weather grows warmer, he said a new tent city could emerge somewhere in San Francisco. Despite their warnings about no overnight camping in public parks, city officials let the encampment remain in the plaza for more than two months.
Doherty said Occupy SF will soon become more visible again.
“We’re not going away,” he said. “I have no reason to stop doing this. It’s going to be a slow couple of weeks, but we’re coming back.”
By Amy Crawford
SF Examiner Staff Writer
Occupy SF activists say their movement is still going strong, but separate protest actions over the weekend demonstrated how hard it can be to get organized without an established base of operations.
The movement’s latest protest effort fizzled Sunday when fewer than a dozen activists showed up to disrupt Mayor Ed Lee’s holiday open house at City Hall.
Three Occupy representatives waited in line for almost a half-hour to have their picture taken with the mayor, but when James Mills, 40, reached into his jacket for his handmade sign, a security guard tore it out of his hands before the photo could be snapped.
“This direct action didn’t turn out exactly the way we expected,” said Mills, whose sign read, “All I want for Christmas is a job, housing and health care for all.”
Occupy’s media team had posted information about the City Hall event on the movement’s website less than 14 hours before it started. Activist Sara Nunn, 20, noted that it was difficult to mobilize people who are dispersed across The City, especially on such short notice.
“Not everybody at Occupy is online, not everyone has the Internet,” she said.
A protest Saturday night at Sue Bierman Park, near the former site of the Occupy camp in Justin Herman Plaza, was more successful, Occupiers said.
After a march in honor of jailed alleged WikiLeaks leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning and the three-month anniversary of Occupy SF, about 90 protesters rallied and set up tents. But at 8 p.m., when the park closed and police asked everyone to dismantle the camping gear, most of the protesters complied without resistance.
Police Officer Cathie Daly said there was no confrontation and no arrests were made. However, protester Nick Shaw, 32, said he was shoved to the ground by police and briefly handcuffed before receiving a citation for illegal camping.
By Sunday afternoon, the park was completely void of any trace of protesters.
And on Monday, police said three protesters were cited under The City’s sit-lie law after being told by police that they could not hang out in front of the Federal Reserve Bank at 101 Market St.