OccupySD Sweet Potato WMD Destroyed; Cops Punk’d By Mini-Tent Encampment

by on November 29, 2011 · 8 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Organizing, San Diego

It was a strange day at OccupySD. Tensions with the police reached a breaking point on at least two occasions.  Many people including our own Frank Gormlie were off to the north in support of what was expected to be a major confrontation between the City of Los Angeles and Occupy protestors there.

Incident number one occurred earlier in the day. Some good hearted soul donated three cases of fresh sweet potatoes to OccupySD.  The police asked that the tubers be transported elsewhere immediately, saying that they were afraid of the yams being used as weapons.

(Yes, food purists, I am aware that sweet potatoes and yams are not the same thing. Since I don’t know for sure what the DNA of the donated items was, I’m choosing to use both terms. So stick that in yer pipe and smoke it.)

This prompted an urgent request being sent out through OccupySD Facebook for somebody to please find a home for these sweet taters.  Tensions mounted as one poster after another sent in their regrets, using lame excuses like “I’m at work” or “Sorry, I’m in LA”.  The message spread over onto Twitter, prompted in part by Tweets from this authors account. Kelly over at CityBeat wanted to know if this was for real; “Yes. I’m serious. You can’t make shit like this up.”  I tried to buy OccupySD some time, tweeting “Sorry @SDPD @OccupySD doesn’t have a potato gun. So the 3 cs of donated sweet potatoes are only marginally dangerous. #ForReal

Finally, after 58 Facebook messages and three tense hours the Sweet Potato crisis was over.  They went up to Adams Avenue and were—some I’m told—being converted into pies… or was it curry?

The SDPD barely had time to debrief when the next crisis arose. The word was out in the media that OccupySD was returning to the Civic Center to set up tents.  CityBeat reporter Dave Maass returned from his self imposed Twitter exile (he’s goofing off over at Google Plus & calling it “refreshing”.) to provide “live coverage”.  TV cameras were in position. The SDPD had—for real—50 officers dressed in riot gear, ready to storm Freedom Plaza, stashed several blocks away….

Tensions mounted as the promised arrival time (5 pm) for the tents came and went.  The police in the plaza circled the protestors uneasily.  There was trouble with a capital T in the air, everyone could just feel it.  It seems that this decision to re-Occupy the Civic Center was made by a breakaway group of protestors and the doomsayers were almost eagerly predicting bloodshed.  Tempers flared on Facebook, and people were accused of being agent provocateurs, anarchists and egomaniacs.

The then first group of Occupiers appeared, sans tents. They began constructing imaginary tents on the Plaza.  What was this, some sort of Guerilla Theater?  The answer was obviously “yes”, as additional people showed up carrying tweny five mini tents and placed them on the Plaza. OccupySD had pulled a fast one.  The question became: What would the cops do, given their general track record of not having a sense of humor?  Fortunately, they backed down, leaving behind a large number of officers, just in case this wasn’t really a joke.

From Occupier Jolene Smith, here’s an eyewitness account posted to Facebook:

?99% Tent City Tonight!
I arrived a little bit after
4pm to the Freedom Plaza…I was greeted by Heavy Barricades…Guarded by SDPD….There was a rather large presence of Law Enforcement. They were asking “You don’t have a Tent do you”?…..Once through the guantlet of “Protection” I found myself in the middle of Fellow Occupiers…maybe 50 or so…….The spirit was tense…and even one person was crying with worry about the RE Occupation! Worried that someone might get hurt….and nothing he could do to protect…There were TV Trucks and Lots of Media Surrounding as well. Once the Bull Horn started we gathered to hear the Declartion of Independence….The SDPD made their show of force….lining up on either side of us. Then right in the middle of it all…a loud chant…..”We Are The 99%”…..and as I turned toward the entrance…I see Teenie…Tiny…Tents in the air….and marching Occupiers holding them high in the air….I began jumping up and down and screaming…………Tents….We have Tents….and then the laughter and relief set in….We were all hugging for Joy that no one would be hurt during this Tent Occupation….We laid amoungst the Mini Tents….Laughing and Loving…..

Photo by Dave Maass via Twitter

Of course there were some people on both sides who were Not Amused.  Some of the angriest Occupiers refused to relax, blustering about “what if”, “what if” or complaining about the terrible stress it caused them personally.  A local tv station is reporting this morning that the SDPD has decided that’s it’s now illegal to put up the mini tents.  One has to wonder if they’ll send in a mini riot squad to dismantle them.

One final note: The folks pushing the petition for the resignation of San Diego Police Chief William Landsdowne report that 445 emails have been sent to his office asking him to step down.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie November 29, 2011 at 11:41 am

I like the sass in this article. It’s due given the ridiculousness OSD is faced with on a regular basis. Thanks for including the YouTube video – it’s quite inspiring, especially the number of occupiers in attendance. On a side note, I’d like to see more union groups come out in support of OSD. Where the hell is everyone?


doug porter November 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Occupy supporter and former Democratic candidate Ray Lutz was arrested this afternoon for the heinous crime of setting up a voter registration table at City Hall.


Marisa November 29, 2011 at 2:43 pm



Marisa November 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Awesome! Too funny! BTW: Yams and Sweet potatoes ARE the same thing. I just saw Sweet Potatoes on Good Eats. :)


doug porter November 29, 2011 at 3:14 pm

That’s like saying all Philly Cheesesteaks are the same.

Here’s the straight dope:

Yams (family Dioscoreaceae) are native to Africa and Asia and other tropical regions. Yams are starchy tubers that have an almost black bark-like skin and white, purple or reddish flesh and come in many varieties. The tubers can be as small as regular potatoes or grow upwards of five feet long.
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) come in two main varieties here in the States. One has a golden skin with creamy white flesh and a crumbly texture. The other has a copper skin with an orange flesh that is sweet and soft. All sweet potato varieties generally have the same shape and size — they are tapered at the ends and much smaller than the aforementioned yams. Americans have been calling the orange-fleshed variety of sweet potatoes “yams” since colonial times when Africans saw familiarities in them to the tuberous variety. The USDA decided to label them as “yams” to differentiate the two varieties.


unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG November 29, 2011 at 5:15 pm

I yam what I yam, & that’s what I yam. 2b or not


Lois December 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm

IMAGINE!!! A sweet potatoe crisis. This should be of the highest priority. Hey, SDPD, why don’t you get off your “militarization mind processing” and try doing some thinking of your own?


Lois December 2, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Annie: When I still belonged to the California Nurses Associations, I went on all the rallys. Yes, where are the unions?. When we were on our rallys, at least AFL/CIO was with us. My biggest thrill in these rallys were when the firefighters, in support, would drive by in their engines, sounding their horns in support of the nurses. Stangely, no one was pepper sprayed or arrested. In Sacramento ,our then govenenator said at a press meeting, “nurses don’t like me because I kick their butts.” Isn’t that class, dignity and decorum for you? He was so powerful, he is now in the dumpster. Law was finally passed to give nurses a decent ratio of patients to nurses. This was a victory for the nurses, but gradually this was undermined by the CEOS of the Hospital Association. They continue placing nurses in jeopardy ignoring the ratios, claiming not enough staffing available. Oh? There are no nursing jobs, WHAT nursing shortage? Short staffing of nurses to feed the bottom line to enhance the greed of the hospital CEOS.
Are you a nurse, or are you a graduate nurse that can’t find a job and have tremendous student loan debt? Maybe off the subject. But it seems one thing leads to another. Humor me, guys.



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