Avalos offers resolution supporting OccupySF and its camp

|
()
OccupySF campers line up for a hot meal on Friday night.
Steven T. Jones

In the wake of last night's violent police raid on the Occupy Oakland encampment (a still-tense situation that we're now on the scene covering) and two similar late-night police crackdowns on OccupySF in recent weeks, Sup. John Avalos and co-sponsors Eric Mar and David Campos are introducing a resolution at today's San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting that calls for the city to explicitly allow the OccupySF encampment and its related infrastructure to remain.

That resolution (the full text follows below), which Avalos legislative aide Raquel Redondiez says will be the subject of a special hearing on Monday before being considered by the full board on Tuesday, Nov. 1, grew out of testimony from OccupySF participants that Avalos solicited at last week's board meeting following a late night police raid on Oct. 16 that resulted in five arrests and many injuries.

As we report in this week's paper (see “Mixed messages,” to be posted this evening, Tues/25), at that Oct. 18 board meeting, Mayor Ed Lee took the position that no tents, kitchens, or other infrastructure would be permitted, a stance that Police Chief Greg Suhr seemed to soften slightly at a raucous Police Commission hearing the next day. In the face of those mixed messages, OccupySF grew into a full-blown tent city in Justin Herman Plaza and there have been no real conflicts with police since.

Both the San Francisco Police Department and the Mayor's Office were slow to respond to messages we left all week seeking to clarify the city's policy toward OccupySF, but both finally got back to us last night after the article had gone to press.

SFPD spokesperson Daryl Fong told us, “We're still currently doing daily safety inspections at Justin Herman Plaza and continuing to provide leafletting...We're educating the campers about violations and concerns for public safety,” such as unsanitary conditions or unsafe camping structures.

But he said OccupySF hasn't been given any deadlines for removing structures and there are no current plans for another raid. “Our goal is to get compliance from the campers voluntarily,” he said. “This situation is being continually monitored as it progresses.”

When we asked the Mayor's Office about the contradiction being Lee's stance and the city's reaction to the growing tent city, Press Secretary Christine Falvey wrote, “The mayor's position on Occupy SF has not changed. He has directed his departments to facilitate peaceful protest, but not allow structures, tents, or a permanent campsite. He wants to ensure the area is safe for demonstrators and the general public. If you have been to the site, you may have seen the Fire and Public Health Departments conducting inspections for public health and safety concerns and you may have seen Recreation and Park and Police staff informing people of the parks and public safety codes that prohibit camping equipment. Individuals are being informed daily of this and the city's Homeless Outreach Team is offering services to anyone in the area who may need it. The policy stands and departments are educating the group about what is and is not allowed and the mayor expects those who want to use the space to protest, to follow the rules.”

But OccupySF protesters say they have no intention of leaving the space, believing it's their right to be there as part of a national movement spotlighting the greed and corruption of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. And when I told Falvey that the encampment seems to defy the mayor's stated position, she wrote, “The mayor has asked several departments to enforce the existing codes, and I understand a number of informational contacts have gone out daily to educate those using the plaza about what is allowable in addition to Fire and Public Health inspections to make sure open flames or dangerous materials are not being used or stored at the site.”

I told her that didn't address my question, and I asked for a reaction to the Avalos legislation that would explicitly allow “tents, tarps, First Aid supplies, environmentally clean and fire-safe energy sources, and the ability to store, prepare, and serve hot food,” which is the reality now on the ground. I'll update this post when I get a response.

In the meantime, here's the full text of the resolution:

[Expressing Support for Occupy Wall Street Protest Movement and the People’s Right to Peaceful Assembly in San Francisco]

Resolution Supporting the Occupy Wall Street Protest Movement and Urging Mayor Lee to Uphold People’s Right to Peaceful Assembly and Collaborate with Occupy SF to Ensure Safety of the Protestors, their Supporters, and the Greater Public.

WHEREAS, "Occupy Wall Street" was formed by a broad spectrum of people coming together to protest the corporate-serving economic and political system controlled by the 1 percent, profiting at the expense of 99 percent of the people; and

WHEREAS, Three years after the current financial crisis caused by Wall Street speculators and profiteers, the unemployment rate in the United States is still at the highest level since the Great Depression with the unemployment rate in San Francisco currently at 8.3 percent; and,

WHEREAS, The United States’ major banking institutions, which have been bailed-out by the government and United States taxpayers, have done little to prevent massive foreclosure of residential properties or support the revitalization of local economies by sustaining small businesses; and,

WHEREAS, Since 2008, there have been 1.2 million foreclosures in California, with 12,410 homes in San Francisco alone; and,

WHEREAS, The "Occupy Wall Street” protest movement has struck a chord with the people of the United States and around the world, inspiring over 900 similar protests and solidarity actions across the country, where tens of thousands of people have come out to express their deep indignation against Wall Street greed and systemic socio-economic injustices; and,

WHEREAS, The "Occupy" demonstrations are a rapidly growing movement of people from all walks of life with the goal of occupying public space in order to create a shared dialogue and assert demands for economic justice; and,

WHEREAS, The “Occupy” demonstrations have been supported by the California Nurses Association/ National Nurses Association, American Federation of Labor -Congress of Industrial Organizations, Change to Win, International Longshore and Warehouse Union-International, Teamsters Joint Council 7, Services Employees International Union, Laborers International Union of North America, and many others; and,

WHEREAS, The OccupySF demonstrations began in September with small gatherings of people and have since grown and gained supported from thousands of individuals, community and faith-based organizations, and unions; and,

WHEREAS, On October 12, a 500-person march and civil disobedience organized by local community groups received national media attention, exposing the struggles of San Francisco residents against foreclosure, corporate control, and spiraling unemployment; and,

WHEREAS, The October march and protest action culminated in civil disobedience and, despite the arrest of 11 people, lacked any antagonistic conflict between the police and protestors; and,

WHEREAS, Similar to demonstrations in hundreds of cities across the United States, OccupySF demonstrators are asserting their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in order to create public dialogue around corporate control of the political process and public space; and,

WHEREAS, Numerous and various groups continue to join the protesters at OccupySF, including an interfaith clergy contingent and the California Nurses Association, which has set up a First Aid tent to support the protestors and help ensure public safety; and,

WHEREAS, The City of San Francisco has a right and duty to ensure the safety and security of the general public including the protestors and their supporters; and,

WHEREAS, Since the beginning of the protest, City actions have resulted in the confiscation of food, tents, sleeping bags, and other belongings from the OccupySF demonstrators as well as causing preventable injuries and arrests; and,

WHEREAS, The City has a lengthy and proud history of political protest and has upheld the rights of people to free speech, freedom of assembly, and peaceful protest; and,

WHEREAS, With clear leadership from the Mayor, City departments can set a tone of cooperation and collaboration with OccupySF protestors and supporters, help mitigate harm, and address any public safety, health and sanitation concerns, all while avoiding unnecessary conflict; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors supports the Occupy Wall Street protest movement and the rights of all who protest to assemble peacefully and enjoy free speech in the City and County of San Francisco; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors recognizes that Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly should not be limited to daytime nor short-term activities and we deem the need of protesters to have tents, tarps, First Aid supplies, environmentally clean and fire-safe energy sources, and the ability to store, prepare, and serve hot food reasonable; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors urges the Mayor, the Police Department, and other City agencies to uphold the rights of protestors to political speech and public assembly, and to recognize that the full exercise of such rights requires that participants are able to attend to the needs of everyday life, and have a space free from harassment; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors urges Mayor Ed Lee to direct the Recreation and Park Department, the Department of Public Works, the Police Department, and other City agencies, as relevant, to be flexible and to collaborate with protestors for the safe sharing of public spaces, in which demonstrators can exercise their political rights and the City can address legitimate safety concerns while avoiding unnecessary antagonism; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors urges Mayor Ed Lee, in order to prevent further harm and conflict to any members of the public, including protestors of OccupySF, to direct the Police Department to ensure that there will be no use of force to dislodge the OccupySF demonstrators and confiscate their belongings.