Occupy San Francisco has a different vibe than it's cousin across the Bay in Oakland even though some activists are shuttling between encampments. There appear to be less of the chronically homeless here. There is an attempt to work with city authorities around issues of hygiene and dealing with troublesome, dangerous elements that gravitate to the camp. They have achieved a fairly comfortable truce with the police. In this respect the demonstrators displayed remarkable resolve and non-violent tactics in their last major defense of their occupation against a police raid. This is well documented in Nicole Landau's short video.
While I was painting here, Occupiers abruptly began to reorganize the camp to make the Bocce Ball courts available for use. This gesture of goodwill had me scrambling to complete details of the encampment before it was entirely transformed!
No Business as Usual
Pundits and city officials who expect rain and cold weather to extinguish the Occupy movement are probably deluding themselves. To the casual eye these encampments resemble unkempt, homeless settlements - with one difference. A difference that betrays the deep intellectual resolve underlying the movement. Words are everywhere. Words march across paper, cardboard, wood, fabric and the pavement proclaiming slogans, thoughts, poems. The homeless in these encampments are not demoralized. They have joined forces with idealistic youth and veteran activists to wake the country up. Maybe, over time, to forge a new path.
Call them dreamers, but they're not the only ones. Outside the camps are thousands of supporters who, even it they are hanging on to solvency by their fingernails, are donating time and resources. This is what is stymying city halls in Oakland and San Francisco. Support for the movement is probably greater than support for any of our elected officials.
The country has awoken to the realization that most of the time most of our government does not act in the people's interest.
Occupy Wall Street has stepped forward in a radical vote of no confidence. They have correctly condemned the government and its institutions for overlooking the crimes of the rich ( even bailing them out - with our money.) while allowing the banks to illegally foreclose on the poor. In an act of civil disobedience, they are reclaiming the public square for the people.
Direct Action and Agents Provocateurs
There is talk in Oakland, since the late night vandalization of businesses after the General Strike, that the encampment is providing shelter for violent anarchists. I remain dubious. Historically anarchism, which has had many varied tendencies, has been overwhelmingly non-violent. (Indeed the 'humble and colossal' Camille Pissaro, father of Impressionism, whose works are now on display at the Legion of Honor was a lifelong anarcho-syndicalist – more about him in a later blog.) Most people I overheard or conversed with in Oakland were adamant in their commitment to non-violence.
A troubling aspect to these incidents is growing evidence a) that police have been infiltrating the movement and b) they and/or other national security agencies may be encouraging the masked 'black bloc' mob as a way of discrediting the entire movement. Clearly, it was not to the advantage of anyone in the Oakland encampment to break the windows of Sully's Cafe which has been openly supportive of the encampment.