San Francisco (Fall 2011)
Occupy San Francisco has had two encampments leveled by the police. Protestors were arrested, and while that was no tragedy – every arrest was an opportunity to bring the message to the criminal justice system – it was hard to lose the tents and sleeping bags and backpacks and bags of stuff accumulated over many hard nights occupying. New tactics were needed.
As it happens, innovation in the Bay Area is not limited to technology. The region that is home to Apple and Zynga and Uber created something new: Pop Up Occupations. And in that helpful way that San Franciscans Yelp their every experience, the concept was explained on the web:
We in OccupySF, specifically an affinity group known as the “101 Tribe”, have come up with a novel and fun tactic we want to share with Occupiers everywhere. We call this the “Pop Up Occupation”.
The idea of a Pop Up Occupation, is centered around several core concepts: mobility, visibility, novelty, and creativity. Pop Ups are mobile and are a barebones Occupation, with a tiny kitchen (mostly sandwiches and snacks), mobile library, info table and a first aid kit (unless you’re lucky enough to have a street medic in your affinity group). The mobile and small nature of the Pop Up allows you to be present in high traffic areas where it wouldn’t typically be possible to have a presence
Pop Ups allow occupiers to pick bustling locations and while there to court opinion through public engagement.
People see a bunch of happy, motivated, passionate and informed protesters with fun signs and chalk drawings on the sidewalk and they approach with a smile, buy us coffee, and most importantly, have great conversations that they can take home to their friends and families and coworkers.
Pop Ups present a great face to the world for your Occupation and the movement as a whole..
The idea is pretty clear: occupations may be flattened and the sidewalks hosed down so it looks as if no one was ever there. But then across the street another one will pop up. And another. And another. There is even a slogan: “Evict us, we multiply! Occupy will never die!”
There is also new term for the Occupation movement: The Whack-A-Mole Revolution.
* * *
It is Halloween in San Francisco:
A call went out to the community:
EAT THE RICH! It’s a MARCH OF THE (economic) UNDEAD!!
We have been scrambling and scrounging a living for an eternity and now we are HUNGRY FOR RESOURCES!
We are a unified group of people who are 99% dead! At our last eternal meeting we decided to organize with the living to gain greater access to resources our movement needs to succeed!
Our undead army will be dancing, chanting, and trick-or-treating our way through One of San Francisco’s wealthiest neighborhoods looking for the sustenance we crave….JOIN US!!!!
And so on Halloween evening, a band of 30 or so zombified members of the economic undead stood in front of a mansion on Broadway, an uber wealthy street in the uber wealthy neighborhood of Pacific Heights. This is a neighborhood that brings tourists to see the huge houses – the houses of Larry Ellison of Oracle, Senator Diane Feinstein, the writer Danielle Steele. This is where tourists come to take photos of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay down below, of the impossible hills that crest so sharply that every few weeks a moving van or delivery truck will start down only to find the slope is so steep that the underbelly of the truck gets caught on the crest.
Here, on the corner of Billionaire’s Row, the leader of the economic undead cries out for social justice. A band of undead wail and clank their chains. There are mutilated professionals and dead farmers. There are factory workers with signs: “We are the 99%”. It is like Occupy Lego Land, with zombies.
This protest was organized by a group called Homonomixxx, decribed as “a social justice arts troupe formed to bring a fun arts-centered queer presence to the Occupy projects of both San Francisco and Oakland”. In an article in the Castro Courier, Homonomixxx role is said to be:
The Homonomixxx group, just one manifestation of queer organizing within the Occupy movement, believes that its mission is to bring stunning, glamorous, and clear messaging to a movement in need of an artistic makeover. Clad in gold fabric and high heels, Homonomixxx says they “put the moves back in the Movement.”
* * *
I do some internet research and find a website for the “101 Tribe” – the Occupiers who are plying their craft at 101 Market Street in front of the Fed – which in turn takes me to a tweeter named “@occupop” who invites me to a “streetwarming” in front of the Bank of America location in the Castro. @occupop is very active on Twitter. He is the author of over 6,000 tweets. He is being followed by 798 people, including me. His Twitter description says he is “big, gay, cuddly, tattooed, Anarchist” and adds the essential details: “Virgo-Monkey-INFJ. Queen of Spiders.”
He is a frequent retweeter, forwarding to his followers tweets from others active in the cause. He is, for example, in the thick of the twitter telling of the story of Ellie from Oakland, apparently a medic at Occupy Oakland who was hauled off by the police for protesting. He passes on the good news that she is released before Christmas.
Most of his tweets are calls for solidarity or truth and justice, but every so often he tweets to schedule. I get a kick out of his discussion with a fellow who calls himself Cambio.
@ProjectCambio: i like the way you think. let’s offlist this and maybe meet in meatspace next week?
I have to look up “meatpace” in the Urban Dictionary to learn that it refers to “real life,” as in that life that is the alternative to life on the internet.
* * *
If the message was diffuse at Zucotti Park, it is even less definable in San Francisco. It is so diffuse that I see Occupiers everywhere.
I first saw them spilling out of a bar on Broadway near the corner of Columbus. There must have been a dozen of them. Young men in full Santa regalia, red hats, long white beards, beers in hand. I thought they must just be off shift at Salvation Army, but then a block further down Broadway there were another half a dozen Santas, equally costumed, wobbling as they walked. This band included a well endowed young woman in tight green tights dressed as an elf. She had a long red and white Christmas stocking in her hand. She was whirling it around her head like a larriott and laughing maniacally.
At the light just before the tunnel on Broadway a squad of Santas walked in front of my car, drinking beer and yelling, beards askew. I leaned out the window to hear what they were yelling and one of the Santas handed me a beer.
Maybe this was a Pop Up occupation. If it was, it certainly caught my attention. I turned off Broadway onto Powell and drove up the hill to where the cable cars. There were literally hundreds of Santas along Powell. There were hundreds more on Hyde. Everywhere I drove there were Santas.
The city was crawling with Santas.
I tried to make the Occupy connection. Something about the greed and materialism of Christmas. Something about the obscene Christmas profits. I called my friend Jamie from my car. “Are you downtown?”
“Have you noticed that there are a greater than expected number of drunken Santas?”
“Oh yeah, its Santacom today. You gonna join in?”
“What is it?”
“A citywide pub crawl of wasted Santas. Another San Francisco lark. This year there is a plan to set the Guiness Book record for greatest number of naked Santas in one place.”
Not everything is an occupation.
But when I went back to my computer, I found, sure enough, there was a website called “Occupy Christmas” exhorting the 99% to avoid big box retailers and the use of credit cards. Spend dollars locally. Hit the banks where it hurts. As one blog said, “every dollar you spend is a political decision.”
Everything is an occupation.
– Jay Duret