SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Blue tarps and tents pitched on the sidewalk interrupted the usual urban landscape on one block of Market Street Wednesday as a group of people, young and old alike, occupied the space in solidarity with the weeks-long Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City.
PICTURES: Bay Area Occupy Protests
Protesters associated with the group “Occupy SF” have been camping out in the city’s Financial District for the last couple of weeks. The group staged several demonstrations and events Wednesday, including a midday march through the city’s Civic Center in which some 200 people marched up Polk Street.
At least a hundred people—including some from as far away as Perth and Madrid—milled about the partially canopied sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve Bank at 101 Market St. Wednesday afternoon.
People ebbed and flowed on the sidewalk, some sitting in a circle in front of the bank’s entrance and others leaning against the stone columns lining the block between Main and Spear streets.
An absence of definite action marked the space in which people freely expressed themselves and simply existed in the spontaneous community. A flautist took a break from playing to converse with a woman holding a bunch of large sunflowers. Someone waved an American flag that was raised upside-down on a staff.
The occupation is being held in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, which describes itself on its website as a “leaderless resistance movement” using nonviolent means to protest the nation’s growing disparities between the rich and poor.
KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:
The site said, “We are the 99 percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1 percent.”
Tents underneath the tarps offered medical care and nourishment, the marble edge of a planter serving as the makeshift counter for the kitchen tent, before which was spread a box of breads, butters and hummus.
One man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask—a favorite of anti-BART protestors in recent weeks—walked in no particular direction. Diamond Dave Whitaker, the septuagenarian Mission icon and fixture in the city’s radical movement, mingled in the crowd of mostly twentysomethings.
Someone sat cross-legged directly in front of the entrance and held a sign on which was scrawled “system error.”
Local political stand-up comedian Nato Green, who has been touring the country and participating in political events as part of a documentary-in-progress, said that the amorphous movement is a “breath of fresh air.”
“This kind of event—it’s the new authenticity,” Green said. “Our opinions have been narrowed and we’re so marketed to. This is a genuine expression of people’s frustrations.”
“Conventional rules go out the window in these moments,” he said.
Ryan Thayer, a 26-year-old San Francisco resident, said he was motivated to join Wednesday’s occupation because of the length of the protests on Wall Street.
He said the socially progressive movement needs to happen here.
“If it’s not happening here, it’s not going to happen anywhere.”
Thayer, who graduated from San Francisco State University in 2010 after studying urban planning, recently completed a year of service with AmeriCorps, working as a community organizer in the city’s Excelsior District.
In leading youth in painting murals, he focused on positive change in the diverse neighborhood. He said that the diverse crowd of demonstrators needs to focus on fighting for something rather than fighting against something.
“It’s more important to nurture something,” Thayer said. “Come with some kind of positive force. We’re tapping into an energy source, but it needs guidance.”
Guidance came loosely in the form of a schedule marked on a whiteboard affixed to a lamppost: “11 gather for march; 12 general assembly on march route; 3ish working groups; 6pm general assembly.”
“Don’t fergit yer name tags,” the sign read.