Occupy is back -- with horns and glitter

An energetic day of action shows that the movement is very much alive

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Occupy protesters block bank entrances on Jan. 20
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY LUKE THOMAS

yael@sfbg.com

On Jan. 20, hundreds of activists converged on the Financial District in a day that showed a reinvigorated and energized Occupy movement.

The day of action was deemed "Occupy Wall Street West." Despite pouring rain, the numbers swelled to 1,200 by early evening.

Critics have said that the Occupy movement is disorganized and lacks a clear message. Some have decried its supposed lack of unity. Others have even declared it dead.

But the broad coalition of community organizations that came together to send a message focused on the abuses of housing rights by corporations and the 1 percent sent a clear message:

The movement is very much alive.

 

A FULL SCHEDULE

Protesters packed the day with an impressive line-up of marches, pickets, flash mobs, blockades, and everything in between.

The action began at 6:30 a.m., when dozens chained and locked themselves together, blocking every entrance to Wells Fargo's West Coast headquarters at 420 Montgomery Street. The bank didn't open for business that morning.

Another group of protesters did the same thing at the Bank of America Building around the corner. A dozen blockaded one of the bank's entrances from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., preventing its opening. A group organized by Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) closed down the Bank of America branch at Powell and Market for several hours.

The Bank of America branch at Market and Main was also closed when activists turned it into "the Food Bank of America." Several chained themselves for the door, while others set up a table serving donated food to hundreds of people.

Meanwhile, activists with the SF Housing Rights Coalition and Tenants Union occupied the offices of Fortress Investments, a hedge fund that has overseen the destruction of thousands of rent controlled apartments at Parkmerced. Direct actions also took place at the offices of Bechtel, Goldman Sachs, and Citicorp.

Hundreds picketed the Grand Hyatt at Union Square in solidarity with UNITE HERE Local 2 hotel workers.

A group of about 600 left from Justin Herman Plaza at noon and marched to offices of Fannie Mae, Wells Fargo, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) in a protest meant to draw attention to housing and immigrant-rights issues.

"It's not just a corporate problem. The government has been complicit in these abuses as well," said Diana Masaca, one of the protest's organizers.

More than 100 activists from People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER) and the Progressive Workers Alliance "occupied Muni," riding Muni buses on Market Street with signs and chants demanding free transit for youth in San Francisco.

Another 200 participated in an "Occupy the Courts" action at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in protest of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and corporate personhood.

 

GLITTER AND BRASS

Exhausted, soaked protesters managed to keep a festive spirit throughout the day, with colorful costumes, loud music, and glitter — lots of glitter.

The Horizontal Alliance of Very Organized Queers (HAVOQ) and Pride at Work brought the sparkly stuff, along with streamers and brightly colored umbrellas, to several different actions. Many painted protest slogans onto their umbrellas, proclaiming such sentiments as "I'll show you trickle down" and "Not gay as in happy, queer as in fuck capitalism."

According to protester Beja Alisheva, "HAVOQ is about bringing fabulosity to the movement with glitter, queerness, and pride. All day we've been showing solidarity between a lot of different types of oppression."

There was also the Occupy Oakland party bus — a decked-out former AC transit bus — and carnival, a roving party that shut down intersections and bank entrances in its path while providing passengers a temporary respite from rain.

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