Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy SF- Who Was There

Young men wearing flannel shirts and dark hoodies sat on their skateboards in a circle on the lawn in the middle of camp.

TV reporters pointed cameras and shoved microphones into the faces of the weirdest people they could find and prompted them to say inevitably outrageous things.

Legal volunteers wandered the camp making sure everyone had the phone number of the legal hotline. I scribbled the number on my hand just in case the police rushed in and I got swept up with the people being arrested.

A pack of drag queens sashayed by lisping “drag queens for social justice”.

An enthusiastic guitar and mandolin duo entertained the crowd by singing “All you fascists are bound to lose!” to a cheerful melody.

Former City Supervisor Aaron Peskin sat on the ground linking arms with others who were willing to get arrested tonight. Mayoral candidates Leland Yee and John Avalos were also present, often with digital recorders shoved in their faces seeking saucy sound bytes.

Gray-haired Boomers wearing Land’s End fleece jackets marched in a circle and reminisced about past marches, actions, and demonstrations.

Garden variety San Francisco hippies huddled together pinching joints between their thumb and forefinger.

Drunken homeless people plopped down to sleep smack-dab in the middle of all the milling crowds, probably wondering what the hell all the noise was about.

Canine occupiers were well represented. Two puppies wrestled in the center of camp, and on the outskirts a kitten on a leash ignored the action long enough to lick herself a nice bath.

Young people clutched cell phones, social networking at lightning speed with blurred thumbs.

Earnest social justice and activist leaders prepped crowds of people on the north and south ends of camp. “Mic check” one of them would yell. And the crowd repeated “MIC CHECK”. Then a series of staccato instructions would ensue—one sentence at a time—while the crowd repeated each sentence. “We are going to role play.” WE ARE GOING TO ROLE PLAY. “When the police come we will form 3 rows”. WHEN THE POLICE COME WE WILL FORM 3 ROWS. (you get the idea) “The first row will be seated.” “The second row will be kneeling behind them.” “The third row will be standing.”

We were instructed that if you were willing to get arrested tonight you should be a part of the first row sitting in front of the camp. Those who weren’t willing to get arrested were instructed to stand on the sidewalks on the sides of the camp and alternate between two chants: “The-whole-world-is-watching” and “They-may-be-violent-but-we-are-nonviolent”. And as a final instruction, the activists told us “the police will succeed if they raid the camp tonight. So when we are dispersed, reconvene tomorrow at noon in front of 101 Market Street.”

There’s a lot of smart, brave, committed people at that camp. I’m going to bed hoping that my prayers made a difference for those who may be arrested or injured tonight.

Occupy SF- Walking Laps Around the Camp

Arriving at Occupy SF at 9pm I got it in my head to walk seven laps around the camp and pray for all the people who may very well be subjected to violence or jail tonight should the rumors about a police raid turn out to be true. Seven is such a nice sacred number, and besides, walking seven times around Jericho seemed to work (Joshua 6).

So I strolled the walkways, ramps, make-shift highways and byways through the camp at Justin Herman Plaza, towered on different sides by the Ferry Building and the Embarcadero Center.

First thing I noticed is that the camp is clean and tidy. I don’t know what the SF Dept of Health was looking at this week because I didn’t see any vomit, feces, or really any trash at all except for two empty Peets cups with tea bags hanging off the sides. Scattered on cement walls around the perimeter of camp are lots of black glossy buckets with neatly printed signs labeled “cigarette butts”. In one corner of the camp there are 4 porta-potties and a sink. And recycling bins are located throughout the camp.

The camp is organized. There are a variety of tents and some structures of dubious construction made out of tarps. A couple of doors rest horizontally on crates to form low communal dining tables. There is a lost and found area. Someone is even paying attention to decorating because carved pumpkins that would make Martha Stewart proud are scattered throughout camp. There are also art displays, and feathers hanging from overhead strings.

Lest an occupier get bored and stir up trouble, the camp appears to have an active social calendar with various activities to keep occupiers occupied. One tent advertised “Free Massages Here.” I saw a sign informing occupiers of an upcoming “Paper Mache Committee Meeting”. They have formed a committee for paper mache! Taped to a lamp post was a poster board “Sign Up To Teach a Class” which advertised the following upcoming classes:
o The military industrial complex
o Anarchism theory
o Book reader circle- The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
o And my personal favorite, although I have no idea what it means: “Workshop and group discussion on the society of the spectacle, commodity fetishism, and the situationist international.” (if anyone understands that, let me know)

There is a large drum circle tent, where the rhythmic faithful are pounding out beats for the cause. A medical tent stands in the southwest corner of the camp, where volunteers ripped strips of gauze and gave instructions for people to tie them over their mouths and noses should they be confronted with pepper spray.

My favorite sign was “Standing for a More Just, Moral America”- probably because it echos my beliefs and explains why I was there to pray for the camp. A more just and moral America is something that people of faith have been desiring for many months and years- long before the switch was flipped on the first megaphone at Occupy Wall Street.