Protesters "occupy" vacant building

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A slogan from the May 1968 student/labor revolts in Paris scrawled on a wall inside the former Cathedral Hill Hotel
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY YAEL CHANOFF

After a long day of protest that began at 6 a.m., 1200 joined a march affiliatiated with Occupy SF  last night. The march aimed to “liberate the commons”; organizers said they succeeded when they were able to enter a vacant building, the former Cathedral Hill Hotel at 1101 Van Ness.

The march left from Justin Herman Plaza just after 5 p.m. and arrived at the former hotel around 7 p.m. after rallying at several sites along the way.

There, protesters were greeted by a police line and barricades protecting the buildings.

SFPD Officer Carlos Manfredi reports that protesters tried to remove barricades with the hooks of their umbrellas, and then threw “rocks, bottle and bricks” at police. Police responded by pepper spraying a dozen protesters.

Many eyewitness reports confirm manipulation of barricades, but deny that anything was thrown at police, instead attributing the pepper spray usage to anti-police slogans chanted by the crowd.

After the confrontation, the march turned down Van Ness. Some protesters broke windows at a Bentley dealership at 999 Van Ness.

The march soon turned back around, and protesters regrouped near the building’s back entrance on Franklin between Geary and Post.

There, the crowd looked up to see figures on the roof unfurl a banner reading “Liberate the Commons.” The back door was then opened from the inside by activists, largely from Homes Not Jails, who had broken into the building.

Soon after, demonstrators began streaming into the building.

Police arrived around 8 p.m. and redirected traffic, blocking Geary between Van Ness and Franklin, while a mass of several hundred protesters continued to block Franklin street between Post and Geary.

At 8:30, Manfredi said that police had no plans to rush into the “occupied” building.

“RIght now officer safety is our number one priority so we’re not going to go in there and rush into this event. Obviously Van Ness and Geary is a very busy street...We’re monitoring the situation, we’re talking with the owner, and we’re going to come up with a game plan...We’re going to see if we can open up some line of communication and speak to them, and see if we can come to some form of resolution,” Said Manfredi.

Manfredi also discussed the difficulties police find in communicating with Occupy SF protesters, noting that “a lot of times with these protesters, there’s not one single person responsible for leading the pack. So it’s very difficult, when you talk to one person they may not agree with the other ten. So that’s where the problem comes in.”

This “leaderless” quality, as well as privileging immediate human needs like shelter and food over some aspects of capitalism such as property rights, has been a running theme in the Occupy movement. Homeless advocacy was a large part of the Occupy SF focus in past months, as the encampment at Justin Herman Plaza created a community of homeless and housed activists.

Homes Not Jails, an organization that has been working with Occupy SF, was crucial in planning the “liberate the commons” protest. The group insists that the 30,000 vacant housing units in San Francisco should be used to shelter the city’s homeless, which they estimate at 10,000. San Francisco’s Human Services Agency reports the number of homeless at 6,455.

The cold rain pouring down throughout the night’s events increased the urgency many felt to find shelter for homeless colleagues. Said one demonstrator, “if we can prevent just one homeless person from dying of exposure in the rain tonight, the building takeover was worth it.”

The former Cathedral Hill Hotel, which has been vacant since it closed in 2009, is now owned by Sutter Health and California Pacific Medical Center, with plans to open a hospital at the site in 2015.

The project has been a target of several protests campaigns, including opposition from SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, UNITE HERE Local 2, and the California Nurses Association (CNA). They also say the hospital will not cater to patients with medicare and medicaid.

At a press conferenece Jan. 18, CNA member Pilar Schiavo announced a protest at the site for the afternoon of Jan. 20.

Said Schiavo, “A huge hospital is being planned which is being likened by Sutter to a five-star hotel. At the same time, Sutter is gutting St. Lukes Hospital, which is essential to providing health care for residents in the Mission, the Excelsior and Bayview-Hunter’s Point. We know that the five-star hospital's not aimed at serving the 99 percent, and we must hold Sutter accountable to all communities, not just those fortunate enough to have private insurance.”

Police cleared the street of protesters and entered the building around 9:30. Those who wished to were allowed to leave; several did, while about 15 remained. Protesters discussed plans to continue the building occupation through the night.

But most protesters providing support from the outsid had left by midnight, and those inside decided to leave voluntarily, according to organizer Craig Rouskey.

This post has been updated.

Comments

You broke into a vacant building and got arrested?

And that's an achievement?

Gee, I guess this movement really is dead.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2012 @ 3:34 pm

Hello. Also got the papers to print details of the CPMC and Sutter Health community issues that the organizers wanted to shine a light in.

Or did you skip reading the article, and just go straight to trolling in the comments section?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2012 @ 5:14 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

The event was a success because (a) no one was arrested, (b) we highlighted the greed of the 1%, the labor struggles, and the homeless issues surrounding this vacant building. I believe that deomnstrations that include vacant building takeovers (especially buildings being used by SFFD as a training ground). I disagree with some of the "moment" on Friday night; but I certainly don't disagree with the movement. I'm not sure how anyone COULD disagree with the movement. Confronting economic injustice- as inconvenient as that may be for the middle class- is important; and those who have issues with the methods should step up as an empowered individual and start organizing a 'better' way to address these issues.

I hear your frustration, believe me, we're all frustrated. However, I believe in working towards unity over devisiveness. I try not to voice my concerns through electronic communications but rather work to become part of a community I wish to see empowered.

The movement isn't dead, but we're definitely learning how to be better organizers; many of us have not organized protests before.

Good luck to you and if you wish to participate in a redress of grievances, you have my support.

Craig

Posted by Craig rouskey on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 10:15 am

My view is that the movement itself may not be dead, certainly the
economic issues raised have widespread traction, but the present iteration known as OccupySF is probably not what will carry us over the goal line.

After 3 months of effort trying to be a part of, I am walking away. I'm fed up with the insistence of no structure, no leaders, and most egregiously - no accountability or adherence to principle from individuals in positions of responsibility as well as working groups and GA.

Refusing to build an organization with leadership and accountability doesnt mean we dont end up with such things, it just means someone else will make those choices

Ben

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 11:19 am

My view is that the movement itself may not be dead, certainly the
economic issues raised have widespread traction, but the present iteration known as OccupySF is probably not what will carry us over the goal line.

After 3 months of effort trying to be a part of, I am walking away. I'm fed up with the insistence of no structure, no leaders, and most egregiously - no accountability or adherence to principle from individuals in positions of responsibility as well as working groups and GA.

Refusing to build an organization with leadership and accountability doesnt mean we dont end up with such things, it just means someone else will make those choices

Ben

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 11:22 am

those occupying the building caved rather than risk more arrest.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

There is no more insidious threat to this movement than that from those who are sympathetic to it and read periodicals like SFBG and then denigrate its actions to mollify some part of themselves that feels guilt pangs for not taking part.

The notion that the action didn't produce any results is dead wrong. Although a longer occupation might have been desirable, it did produce another hailstorm of lies from the Badge and Blue gang that are pretty easily disproved and shows them for what they truly are. Other occupations of vacant properties are happening nationwide.

The movement has taken hold. I have great respect for those who carry it through the hardships of winter and have every confidence that it will resurrect itself in full with the return of the sun. Onward through the cold and rain, campers, the old world is behind you!

Take care of one another.

Posted by p1d1s1 on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 10:57 am

First off, "Decolonize" is an activist priority not a public priority. Occupy is a branding that resonates with the public, so we can count on the stalwart activists to replace what seems to be working with that which has not worked--leftist mission creep. Any action must be about every cause, and everything that happens in America is hopelessly white-centered, middle class oriented and in need of serious therapy that only the enlightened can provide.

Indeed, this kind of activist-centered focus is little more than activists using activism for their own personal therapy rather than effective therapy to change the world.

Second, OWSW wanted to shut down the Financial District but did nothing of the sort, they just protested. There are ways to bring commerce to a grinding halt, but that would require decentralized autonomous coordinated actions where the usual suspects would not be able to be the arrestee star.

Interestingly enough, suggestions on how to strategically delay transit were derided as attacking the working class while activists have no problems blocking streets and delaying surface transit. They can only delay transit so that they get their speech, only non-strategically, so long as there are no impacts on capital accumulation.

Many in OSF were concerned that without an occupation that the movement would become property of the ongoing activist groups, nonprofits and unions. The "rebranding" of the occupation by the stalwart activists into OWSW seems to have accomplished that.

We seriously need to re/claim a space to occupy so that there can be a popular, ongoing unowned center for organizing and resistance and the connection between popular outrage cannot be overshadowed by nonprofit and union priorities that are not popular priorities.

We need to Occupy David Chiu to make sure that we get a community person on the Planning Commission to replace Supervisor Olague.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 21, 2012 @ 5:47 pm

Not once did the organizers of "Occupy Wall St. West" say they were going to "shut down" the financial district. The media said that...we said we would "Occupy Wall St. West."

Posted by Craig rouskey on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 10:16 am

I have read reports on this occupation of the cathedral hotel on the evening of the 20th online coming from the chronical and other sources and was happy to see the coverage of the labor issues involved with CPMC and the Nurses union in your coverage as it was not sufficiently mentioned in the other reports. This is a very important issue in that the building trades do need the jobs that the renovation of the hotel will involve and the nurses cannot accept, nor should the building trades accept a hospital that does not support union nursing staff in downtown SF-PERIOD.
This must if it has to be, a showdown with the trades not allowing non union construction trades to be involved and refusing to work if the nurses set up a picket during the construction phase.
the only issue I have with your coverage is that there is no mention of reports that furniture was being thrown from the roof of the hotel in this occupation and that at that point the police forcibly entered the building and ended the occupation. It has been reported by the Chron and other sources that this occured, did it? I went to the Gaurdian to find your take and there was no mention of this occuring. wats up?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

I was at the hotel and from when protesters arrived until 11pm. I did not witness any furniture throwing whatsoever. At 8:30, SFPD Public Information Officer told me that police were concerned because protesters were in a position from which they could throw items off of the roof. However, I was at the site the entire time and did not witness that.

Posted by yael on Jan. 24, 2012 @ 10:49 am

I was one of the last protesters to leave the building. CPMC, not the police asked the final occupiers to leave or face arrest, we had decided as a group to not prolong the occupation. We could have refused to listen and continued to occupy, the police had already left. The protesters choose to end the occupation. There was no furniture thrown from the roof. Police lies. They have provided no physical evidence, no photo of the alleged broken hand of the cop, nothing but lies.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2012 @ 11:24 pm

yes. everyone lies but you and your comrades.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 11:34 am

They provide no evidence. Ever. They lie. We have documentation and law suits filed against the cops. Come on...I'm a scientist, I look at data.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 11:50 pm

His lips are moving!

An old lawyer friend told me that one. It's a popular saying in the legal community.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 24, 2012 @ 8:42 am

When I left there were about 5 of us activists at the backdoor to the hotel waiting in support of our comrades. We had been there for hours and experienced the climax of both the police and our occupations actions. At the time the police swarmed my friend and I were standing directly in front of the backdoor until we were physically and violently forced to move; if furniture were thrown we would have known. Furniture was not thrown from the roof, nor were bibles; if they had been they would have likely hit activists as well and we are not into causeing our own people pain.

Aside for the rock/bottle/brick throwing comment during the initial confrontation at the front entrance this article is actually mostly accurate about the activity of the evening, its just missing some facts... Ontop of the pepper spraying and harm caused up front at the back entrance when the police swarmed they used excessive force with many activists. They attempted to push the crowd back forceing some a few activists to the ground who were making room for a dissabled activist in a wheel chair to get out of harms way. When we yelled to the officers that there was a man in a wheel chair, which is one reason why we refused to be pushed further back, they did not acknowledge us. They continued to try to push us back, some using their batons on us. Several officers were not wearing nametags and refused to tell us their names when asked. These are the men and women who are supposed to be protecting the people.

Posted by Was standing right outside the door on Jan. 22, 2012 @ 3:42 am

They are protecting the people.

Posted by Gary on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 11:37 am

The notion that people with health insurance who will go to the new CPMC are somehow the 1% is a reflection of the fixation of the activist community on "the most vulnerable," and is at odds with the grand coalition of the 99%.

Hijacking is illegal.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 22, 2012 @ 8:55 am

Medicare and MediCal will not be accepted at this hospital.

Posted by Craig rouskey on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 10:17 am

If true, that sucks hard. I am on medi-cal, in very poor health, and get most of my health care from CPMC, which curently does provide full coverage to people on medi-cal. That is why I didn't totaly support the goals of this part of the demonstration (unlike the earlyer part in the financial district.) I figured CPMC is good because it serves poor people on medi-cal, provides high quality care (for USA 2012) and it would be convienient to have one closer to where I, and a lot of other poor people, live.
But if this facility dosn't take medi-cal, my opinion on all that is completly different.

Posted by Guest ethan davidson on Apr. 01, 2012 @ 11:28 pm

We would like to request that we put all our energy and dedication
into making J20 a great success. It is destructive to our movement to
ask that we boycott Occupy Wall St. West, Occupy San Francisco
approved J20 and most of us have been working hard on building a
successful day of action. We are requesting that everyone stop sending
emails of such content that they tear us down (to that regards, this
WorkingGroups Google Group has been placed into a moderate all posts
status, for which next week a group will be convened at GA to
retrieve, review and release any pending posts and bring to GA all the
ones expressing concerns). We all know that there are real concerns
that need to be expressed and heard. we propose that next week, when
these J20 action activities are all over, we meet to discuss the
relationship between Occupy SF and Occupy Wall St. West. The
conversation will necessarily involve discussing the challenges we
have had with keeping our General Assemblies positive and productive.
Please plan on attending the Tuesday GA to discuss.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 22, 2012 @ 9:02 am

I am curious. How does someone die from exposure to cold rain in a climate which freezes extremely rarely

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 11:35 am

It doesn't have to be freezing for hypothermia to kick in.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

What's the point of converting an abandoned hotel into another private hospital nobody can afford to go to? This society's so fucking hypocritical.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

can sustain such enterprises.

A better question is whether we can afford the General and it's apparent open-ended, unlimited obligations on the taxpayers' dime.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

As long as the "enterprise" is financially sustainable, it's all good? Is this what the health care system is all about? The purpose of the patients is to "sustain" the hospital?

And here I was thinking that the purpose of the healthcare system should be to sustain *us*!

Posted by Greg on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

having unlimited free access to doctors is mentioned?

Because I am fairly damn sure that it's not in there.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

where it's forbidden to provide people with health care? Because I'm fairly damn sure it's not in there.

I could also mention something about providing for the general welfare and all that, but I'm more interested in what's right rather than what's in the constitution.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

If you want that, move to Bulgaria or Finland. You can have that there, along with the 60% of whatever it is tax rates that you need to fund that.

That's why we buy insurance.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

Countrys with universal health care only offer it to theire own citzens, Foreighners will not be permited to become citizens unless in good health. So, moving to another country would not entitle us to use theire health care system. In fact, we generaly could not llive there legaly at all.
So can the corny "love it or leave it" stuff.

Posted by Guest ethan davidson on Apr. 01, 2012 @ 11:35 pm

We had better hope so, it is pretty much the only place in the city that treats head injurys.
And, we are in earthquake territory, you know.

Posted by Guest ethan davidson on Apr. 01, 2012 @ 11:30 pm

Is that part of why you think this was a "success"?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

All of this occupy stuff is a bit of a security mess. I am still waiting to see the outcomes to it all.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2012 @ 10:28 am

All of this occupy is a bit of a mess. I'm still waiting to find out the details on all of the outcomes.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2012 @ 10:29 am

Taking over a empty building won't solve the health problem, the tax problem, finding work problem, the tax problem, spending problem. Voting hasn't helped we seem to keep voting for the same old Elephant and Donkey, when do we get the change what is needed.

Posted by garrett on Jan. 24, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

The rules of the game are clear enough. We all know them. you work hard and smart, and succeed. Or you don't, and lose. Nobody wants a society where those who succeed simply get mugged by those who fail.

This nation can give you anything and everything you want. Just as soon as you stop expecting somebody else to get it for you.

Occupy will fail because it is not predicated on the great American dream - that YOU control your destiny.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

Why don't you spend the time to transition these people in to jobs. Reconnecting with their families. Many of us are struggling but it doesn't mean we are going to break in and steal. As much as it may upset you that 1% at some point worked for what they have. They didn't just lay down and just hope it be handed to them. By destroying others property you are hit showing how incapable the 99% is even though the actual 99% is not really involved in these foolish acts. They are still fighting the fight looking for jobs and doing what they need for them and their families. Your homeless for most case because you gave up and probably longer before the economy crashed do you don't even deserve to consider yourself part of the 99%.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 15, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

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