Occupy San Diego – our city’s own version of Occupy Wall Street – has expanded. Due to pressure being placed on the Occupy San Diego demonstrators by the police – a pressure which has prevented the protests’ ability to set up its support network, a solidarity station has been opened at Children’s Park in downtown located at Island and First. The solidarity site will work to support the main occupation site, the Civic Center Plaza, where occupiers are now in their 15th day.
By late morning yesterday, October 21st, OccupySD activists had unloaded several vehicles worth of food and gear, and had begun to set up support stations that make up the occupy infrastructure. And by mid-afternoon, they had completed the set-up and establishment of the stations that support the movement. So, for the first time since last week, the Occupy San Diego efforts had the full panoply of its sustainability network: the food-line and kitchen, the medical station, sanitation, the library, arts and crafts, and some media.
There had been some tension with police all during the day and even last night, as occupiers feared that police would arrive in mass and force the dismantling – once again – of all their gear. Nearly two dozen people had said that they would be willing to be arrested for non-violently resisting such police tactics. But as of this morning – Saturday, Oct. 22nd – no police force had arrived and no arrests had marred the beautiful day. Activists estimated that the gear and food – most of it donated by San Diegans – had a monetary value of close to $4400. And this is partially why they had concerns for its placement and location.
After accommodating occupiers for nearly a week, San Diego Police had changed their tune and on Thursday, October 13th, had ordered all Occupy tents and stations removed from the Civic Center Plaza by that Friday morning. The police since then have allowed only sleeping bags at the Plaza.
Over the course of the last week and half, police have prohibited activists from unloading gear and food at Tuna Park by the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, have blocked them from setting up near the World Beat Center in Balboa Park, and have thwarted additional efforts by protesters in other sections of Balboa Park. Many of the original organizers felt that they had been very accommodating to police demands but were now no longer willing to move their donated food and other gear again when ordered to do so by police yesterday morning.
Several activists had been working with the Mayor’s office to find a location such as Children’s Park for the food and other supplies. Children’s Park had been the site of an “occupation” before on Friday, Oct. 7th, when protesters set up a 65-tent temporary encampment for that evening. And there had been no problems with the police then. Occupiers thought that since they had already been allowed an overnight camp before, a precedent had been established – and now they would be able to follow-through and set up their support stations at the Park. Earlier in the first days of its planning, the Park had been the setting for the Occupy San Diego nightly sessions held since late September. These planning sessions led up to the actual protest and occupation.
All of these maneuverings and seemingly “cat and mouse” games being played by occupiers and police here in San Diego stand in strong contrast with how the city government in Los Angeles was relating to their occupiers. Our northern neighbor’s City Council passed a resolution in support of Occupy LA, the mayor came down and greeted the protesters, and handed out ponchos when it rained, plus the police have worked out an arrangement that allows tents and up to 700 people to sleep on the grounds of City Hall. Here is the support part of the resolution:
“… the City of Los Angeles hereby stands in SUPPORT for the continuation ofthe peaceful and vibrant exercise in First Amendment Rights carried out by “Occupy Los Angeles” …
Here in San Diego, there has been no such resolution, the Council members have washed their hands of any initiative towards the demonstrators, Mayor Sanders’ silence has been deafening, and the police – although very accommodating – have been applying the pressure that has caused the occupiers to take on an even more defiant stance. Yet to be fair – relations between the protesters and individual officers have been very cordial – except for the incidents of last week – and there have been solid communications with higher-ups.
More focused on ironing out consensus and decision-making problems and day-to-day issues, the occupiers have failed to put together a formal negotiating team to meet with the mayor to work out arrangements. And the Mayor, more focused on being a conservative Republican, has failed to reach out to the demonstrators – who are literally yards away from his office.
Several activists and supporters did address the City Council the other day to both complain of police tactics against the protesters and to persuade the body to take some kind of favorable action towards the occupiers.
Focus on Banks
People occupying the Plaza have taken to marches to and sit-in’s in front of local branch offices of the major banks – several situated within blocks of the occupied Plaza. On Thursday, about 3 dozen protesters – many from City College – sat down in front of the B Street branch of Bank of America. Several police officers were positioned nearby as protesters chanted, recited poetry, and took turns with recitals about how banks had helped create the financial mess. Even though demonstrators did not block patrons from entering, nor did they enter the bank, the branch closed early. The protest broke up around 6 pm without incident.
The next day, Friday the 21st, a similar protest was held in front of Chase bank. That branch too, reportedly closed early. A Bank Committee has been formed within the Occupy zone and marches on banks are being planned daily.
Support for Occupy San Diego Grows – at Colleges, in Donations, and in “Spin-Offs”
As the Occupy San Diego effort moves into its third week, having spent 14 days and nights at the Civic Center Plaza, support for the movement grows. In today’s San Diego U-T (Sat, Oct. 22), for instance, the paper announced the results of their last poll. Readers were asked:
Do you support the Occupy movement’s methods for drawing attention to its issues?
53% said Yes, and 47% said No. There were 4841 total responses.
Coincidentally, the musical “Hair” is currently playing at the Plaza’s theater. During intermission at each evening’s performance, as the quad fills up with patrons, occupy protesters take time out from their General Assembly, put on the songs from the musical on the loud speaker, and sing to the mainly older, white, middle class crowd – which appears to enjoy the attention. Many approach the occupy zone – roped off from the rest of the Plaza on performance nights – and read the numerous protest signs lined up on the cement.
In addition, there have been a number of rallies at local colleges in support of Occupy San Diego – most occurred on Thursday, the 20th. 150 rallied at City College, and most marched down to the Plaza to join the demonstrators there. Other rallies were held at UCSD where about 100 gathered, and a rally was also held at Cal State San Marcos with about the same number. At Mesa College, one class reportedly got out early and staged a small protest in support.
Donations continue to flow to the occupiers on a nearly daily basis. Much of the donations are in the form of already cooked food like pizza and sandwiches, but also medical supplies and cash. The American Federation of Teachers that represent professors and other employees at City and Grossmont colleges have to date donated over $800.
There have also been a few spin-offs from the main Occupy San Diego. There have been “Occupy” events in Encinitas, Mira Mesa, in the College area, and a number of other locations. These events – though not true “occupations” – help in getting the word out to people in the County’s disparate neighborhoods.
The Homeless and Occupy San Diego
There is an unmentioned phenomenon occurring between Occupy San Diego and the downtown homeless. Many homeless have joined the encampment at the Plaza, finding safety in numbers and free food.
And while the homeless have found a much needed and valuable ally in the occupation protest, their numbers have added weight to the entire encampment. If one travels around downtown San Diego at night, it’s very easy to see the huge numbers of homeless people sleeping in doorways, on grassy areas and around City Hall itself. The Occupy protest has brought them something immediate – some security and some food. Several have been involved in the protest and its planning and attend the GA’s. Many don’t, however, and activists continually reach out to them in hopes that they will be more full partners at the Plaza.
The Occupy San Diego activists hold nightly General Assemblies – run on 100% consensus. At a recent GA, the process was changed slightly to allow for a 90% consensus after up to three days had passed to work out differences and find compromises on issues with no full consensus.
Many had found the nightly sessions to be overly frustrating and tireless exercises in what amounted to “rule by a minority” due to the manner that consensus works. But others view the consensus process as the kernel around which to build and create a new society and new ways to make decisions, and these folks had worked tirelessly over the last couple of weeks in efforts to persuade new people of the value of consensus.
As Occupy San Diego continues and even expands, no one can predict or accurately speculate on its future. Its future is clearly tied to the Occupy Wall Street movement that is still growing around the country and around the world. It’s a wind storm that is spreading hope and inspiration while at the same time re-focusing our national and international debate about the role of banks and corporations in our society – a truly revolutionary fete if it is successful.