Inside the occupation

With its general assemblies, People's Mic, and chants of 'We are the 99 percent,' OccupySF gains momentum despite a police crackdown

Occupy SF marches through the Financial District on Oct. 5 chanting "Make banks pay" and "We are the 99 percent."

Follow the Guardian's complete Occupy SF coverage here.

Thursday morning, in gray seven o'clock fog, about 100 people asleep in front of the Federal Reserve building began to blink their eyes open. The bustling camp that had been there the day before — a small village of tents, tarps and easy-ups, shelves brimming with books, art supplies, and a display of hundreds of signs — was gone. The kitchen and all their food were missing, too.

"Wake up, everyone's gotta wake up. Remember, sit/lie kicks in at seven," urged a few protesters gently, winding their way through the maze of sleeping bags and blankets. No one was in the mood for legal trouble. All the people there, and a few hundred more who had gone home at two and three in the morning, had been a part of OccupySF's first clash with the police. Someone pushed a cart full of fruit and granola bars. Breakfast. It was the camp's first food donation since the incident, which had ended only four hours before. In the calm morning air, it was clear: the police could confiscate gear, but they could not stop the protest. It was only the beginning.

To say that OccupySF has grown in the past three weeks does not begin to describe it.

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, the camp was busy, clean, and what organizer Amy O proudly described as "jubilant." Hundreds exchanged ideas, played music, and made signs and art. Two abundant snack tables providing free food to any and all were only the tip of the iceberg; the kitchen was piled so high that organizers had begun turning away food donations.

This scene contrasted starkly to the demonstration's first night. Occupy SF started on Sept. 17, the same day as Occupy Wall Street, as one of the solidarity actions now reportedly numbering over 1,000. About 150 people gathered for the protest that first day and only a handful stayed the night. A week later, there was a devoted group of 10 campers. By Oct. 1, a good 40 people were camping and the kitchen and communications sections were set up. When the police showed up late Wednesday night, camp was 200 strong.



Spending time at the camp is addictive. Since my first night, I feel something constantly pulling me back. That night, Oct. 1, the camp was lively and half a block long. A big, hot pot of soup sat on the kitchen stove. Next door, the communications area was populated with organizers busily typing on laptops. The medical tent was next, kept pristine but as of yet untouched—its necessity, nonetheless, was evident after that week's incident in New York when police pepper sprayed a group of young women.

At that point, the San Francisco Police Department had been courteous with OccupySF. They provided escorts on marches and didn't bother the camp. Soon after arriving, Russell, a friendly 23-year-old from San Diego who has been camping since the first day, greeted me. He told me that there was a Gardening Committee meeting in a few minutes, and I planned to check it out. Next I saw Lesley Moore, 48, an Oakland resident with unrelenting energy and a knack for mediating misunderstandings at meetings.

She carried a clipboard and was compiling a massive list of food, supplies, and every imaginable resource the group might want. I learned that a flood of supporters, eager to donate, had requested info about what the camp needed. She planned to post the list on later that night.

Fifteen people climbed into a tent for the Gardening Committee meeting, keen to begin growing food for the camp. The donations were rolling in, and if there was a project we wanted to do, well, we probably could. We discussed what could grow in the winter and planting more in the spring. The mood was giddy with possibility but a bit uneasy— could we imagine we'd still be here then?


I've seen bigger crowds at my neighborhood bar.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 7:20 am

to avoid wetting your pants. But you can't fool other people. Your lying to them on the internet, which readily proves you are a liar.

Posted by meatlock on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 7:38 am

Are you saying that SFBG is lying to us?

FYI, the stock market is up 10% since this started. Looks like us one-percenters are doing just fine.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 7:54 am

8:27 PDT SAN FRANCISCO - A group of nearly 200 protesters is blocking the front door of Wells Fargo Bank's corporate headquarters, slowing downtown traffic and forcing workers to use a side entrance.

Posted by meatlock on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 7:47 am

Hmm, let's see, Bay Area population is about 5 million, so that's 00.02% of us taking part.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 7:56 am

'Guest' this is simply because out of the hundreds of thousands of people in any given city, only a handful will risk arrest in a civil disobedience action.

But just as even a mere letter sent to an elected official represents hundreds of people, and every person actually meeting with that elected official represents thousands; every person taking the personal risk to engage in civil disobedience also represents thousands of people who feel the same way about the issue, but are too busy, personally vulnerable, or timid, to show up themselves.

Again, you are whistling in the dark. And the wolf of democracy is creeping up on you. Prepare to be brought down...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 8:58 am

let alone global capitalism.

The stock market is up 10% since this started, and the markets rarely get these things wrong. This will fizzle out as soon as it gets cold and wet.

200 people? Subtract the "usual suspevcts" who show up for all these events, and it's trivial. A few weeks ago it was BART, today it's this, next it will be something else. People like to whine but, in the end, they also like to eat.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 9:14 am

Did not BART immediately reverse it cellphone signal policy?

Is not BART sweating bullets over its police violence problem.

And the modern stock market is simply a farcical measure of totally overblown artificial debt accumulation. Fake money as illusory bytes on computer hard drives, absurdly and exponentially inflating with no real world justification for that expansion. The 'stock market' has become meaningless to how the economy is actually behaving and whether or not it is succeeding or failing.

Your arguments are weak.

And your resort to petty ridicule shows that your protestations are based in fear.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 9:30 am

I doubt that in practice any of their management will change anything. A few conciliatory words they didn't mean bought you off.

And the stock market anticipates event better than polls or anything else. If the Dow is up 10% that means the smart money is betting against you. So do I.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

So you're wrong again.
BART will never shut down cell phone service again, after the world wide condemnation of their embarrassing and UnAmerican act.

"Linton Johnson, the spokesman — who has been on leave from BART since Anonymous publicized partially nude photos of him in mid-August — suggested the shutdown."
"Johnson did not return a call seeking comment. Allison, the spokesman, said he didn’t know whether Johnson would be returning."
Source: The Bay Citizen (

This article, published this morning demonstrates that you are also lying when you say everyone's forgotten the BART issue.
What's it like to be on the wrong side of the truth nearly 100% of the time?
Does it pleasure you somehow?

Posted by Meatlock on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

They can say anything and still do anything.

You've been played.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

Desperately trying to cling to any vile argument you can to invalidate what is now a global movement encompassing hundreds of thousands of active protestors, and likely millions who silently support.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

99% are getting on with their lives with no delusion that they are going to overthrow capitalism.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

That's not what this world wide movement is about.
Thanks for playing, though.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

Really 'Guest'?

This poll says otherwise; that New Yorkers support the Occupy protests 3 to 1.

Looks like you are the fool, on the wrong side of history.

Take a look:

Posted by 'anonymous' on Oct. 18, 2011 @ 9:09 am

Deputy police chief: "I like this idea. Can anyone think of a downside?"
Source: The Bay Citizen (

Posted by Meatlock on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 10:13 am

Instead of turning away food donations from the public, try contacting the SF Food bank to see if there is any way they could help you deal with the excess.

And if the SF Food Bank, can help.. please encourage people to donate even MORE food.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

"Many participants are determined to stay put. Jreds, a protester who had come from Chico, looked me in the eye and promised, "I'm staying as long as it takes.""

This is some of the most earnestly horrible writing. I know one of the "demands" is free college education. If the end result is even more Sac State journalism majors on the loose, I think I'll count myself as one of the 1%.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 13, 2011 @ 5:13 am

Support occupy SF! Support law and order and jail the Wall street gangsters and all the corrupt democrat and republican politicians who aided and abetted the looting of America!

Posted by GuestSf T Party on Oct. 19, 2011 @ 10:17 am

Thanks for this piece and the inside look at our local efforts. A minor FYI: People's Mic has been used since before Occupy Wall Street. I remember using it during anti-war protests in 2003, and I'll bet it goes back at least 10-20 years before that. Anyone have background info on this?

I think it's important to acknowledge that while the surge in support is new, effective organizing and some of the more targeted lock-down actions would not have been possible without the years of grueling work carried out by organizers in previous decades, when the economy was booming and fewer people cared about others in the worst situations. Consensus process, people's mic, facilitation skills, and other tools have been handed down to us by our predecessors.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

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