By Nadin Abbott and Frank Gormlie
It was close to 4pm on the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street – Monday, September 17th – and the mood at the Canvas for a Cause headquarters in Hillcrest was expectant. As people started to arrive for the programed rally in favor of Proposition 37, Nadine Abbott had a chance to talk to Doctor Norrie Robbins of Women Occupy San Diego and a member of the singers Occapellas. Robbins is also Adjunct Professor at the SDSU Dept of Geological Sciences, and is retired from the United States Geological Service, DC office.
Robbins said: “I am worried about my food. I’m beginning to get weird allergies that do not run in my family.”
The allergies started, ironically, in 2002, she said, which is exactly ten years after Monstanto put the genetically modified seeds onto the market, first in corn and then in soy. She has been reading into the scientific literature and while this has lead to the modification of the gene code in plants, “that also makes them pesticide resistance.” And what she has been reading, worries her, and that is that junk DNA, which was believed to be just that, junk, actually is used. So when foreign genes are placed in organisms, there are changes in both humans and the organisms in this case plants.
She later participated in the rally as a speaker, and asked the audience if they were happy to be guinea pigs, or if they had given their consent. GMO has been forbidden in the European Union, but the United States, Canada and Australia still refuse to even label these foods as a matter of policy. Nor has hunger across the world gone down, she added.
Robbins asked: What is worst, the companies claim that putting GMO free on a package is not feasible, and that it is too costly? Yet Safeway’s brand of soy milk has that clearly on the package. Therefore this is a decision made by different stores, including Ralphs and Vons. Robbins also went into the spike of things like thyroid disease, asthma and diabetes. This increase in these diseases is worrisome and could be related to GMO food.
She concluded, “if you care about health, vote Yes on 37.”
By time Lorena Gonzalez mounted the steps – serving as stage – the crowd at the end of Tenth Avenue had grown to eighty. Gonzales, leader of the San Diego Labor Council, spoke of the fact that the Council has taken a vote of ‘Yes on 37’. But she was not here as a labor leader, she said, even if as a labor leader she knows the poor are affected by this. “They have no way to be able to buy more expensive foods, and have very few choices.” She actually put her family on a CAL Fresh budget for a week, to see what it was like.
Gonzalez was here, she explained, because of her two children and as a supporter of Occupy San Diego, “from the beginning”. She said, “I have two children. We can’t ban all kinds of food, but I can control what goes into my kid’s mouths.”
She added, “I read how soccer moms will pass this. We have a right to know.” And as usual Gonzalez reminded people why this election is very important and to go vote.
Then came the Occupellas with their new songs, followed by activist poet Jeeni Criscenzo del Rio who shared one of her heartfelt poems of activism. Safety instructions for the short march to the overpass bridge were given, and the crowd – swelling to one hundred – moved in mass towards the bridge on Robinson Street which overlooked I-163. Once at the bridge, people split up taking both sides with their signs and banners being viewed by the passing motorists below.
Frank recognized a dozen or so activists from the Occupy San Diego movement, outside Women Occupy and the Occupellas. At least four groups had converged to make the rally and bannering on the overpass possible: Women Occupy, Canvas for a Cause, and both sides of the San Diego Occupy network. Original plans for the first anniversary of the occupy movement included banners on a second bridge and then a rally and open mic at Sixth and Laurel. Yet, several organizers said they knew nothing or very little of the other bridge action and didn’t believe anyone was going to Balboa Park. The people who planned that, Frank was told, were not present at the rally.
One could clearly see the other overpass from the Robinson bridge and no one was at that site. Upon leaving and driving by Balboa Park, it was obvious that there were no other rallies, “open mics” or gatherings of occupy activists anywhere.
Meanwhile, Nadine spoke with two more activists, one from OB and the other from Carmel Valley in North County. This showed the geographic reach of how far activists had came, and by they time all was said and done it was about one hundred and twenty demonstrators at the bridge.
Chrisie Paris, who is a member of Occupy San Diego Media Committee told Nadine that “I want to see our food labelled. If we cannot get rid of them (GMOs), at least it should be right there on the box.”
As Occupy San Diego was discussed, Paris added that the OSD General Assembly did reach consensus on Yes on 37. While OSD will not support, or endorse candidates, this issue is so important that they decided to give the full support of the General Assembly. There is more, this is not just Occupy San Diego, or Women Occupy. This is part of a global action in over sixty cities. They range from Sidney to our own city. Her Twitter is #OccupyOB; and her stream is Parissocalcat. She did indeed stream this event.
During the entire event, San Diego Police maintained a low key presence. The tactic of having a rally and a short march to a free-way overpass in the the busy, narrow streets of rush-hour Hillcrest was good, with the neighborhood known as a liberal one, demonstrators could hope to garner sympathy from the residents. It also lent a challenge to a huge police mobilization like the ones witnessed by the Occupy movement in downtown San Diego.
On the other hand, the turn-out was disappointing if this was supposed to be Occupy San Diego’s first anniversary demonstration. Many of the occupy activists seen last year were missing. Even though Gonzalez spoke as a mom – not as a labor leader – there weren’t any union or labor activists present. And even though political bannering on a freeway overpass has born mixed results, this particular bridge had much less traffic beneath it than say, the bridges over the I-5 freeway.
Yet, the message was clear: vote for Prop 37. Here’s a photo gallery of the event (click on image for larger version).