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Occupy San Diego

A friend who was an organizer in the 60s and 70s invited me to attend Occupy San Diego “General Assembly” meeting downtown. And give him a ride--he doesn’t drive. It was held at Children’s Park across from the San Diego Convention Center. There were about 100 people there, mostly young. Children’s Park is consists of maybe a dozen concrete rings around a circle of grass, 30 feet in diameter. The park was perfect for organizations which have a lot of committees and no money for  hiring a hall, which was Occupy San Diego’s situation. They had committees for sanitation, the media, arts and entertainment, food, and for security and others I can’t remember. Occupy San Diego had been meeting for less than 2 weeks.

When my friend and I arrived, the security committee was meeting. My friend, I’ll call him Bud, was acquainted with some of the organizers. The committee was standing around one of the concrete circles talking to a middle-aged guy who was wearing a sport coat and looking out of place. Turns out he was sent by the police to act as a liaison between the protesters and the police. The group was first trying to determine if he was who he said he was, and then putting it to a consensus vote as to whether or not to work with him. The sense I got from the discussion is that they were wary of infiltrators and provocateurs, and of being duped or misled. They voted to work with the guy.

Bud gave me a quick rundown on how to participate. If I agreed with what was being said, wave the right arm. If I disagreed and wanted to discuss my disagreement, cross my forearms in front of my face. If I couldn’t hear, put my hand to my ear, and if someone next to you at their hand to their ear, do the same until you get the speaker’s attention. With the traffic and the trolleys going by, my hand was attached to my ear. Children’s Park was chosen for the OccupySD meetings because it was easy to get to, but I wondered if they were figuring the noise would make recordings difficult to make.

The issue of the liaison was settled and the General Assembly began with reports from the various committees. I could see that Occupy San Diego was a work in progress, and the march was the next day. They hadn’t decided on the route. Or if they had, they weren’t saying. Perhaps they didn’t want the right wing nuts jobs, which San Diego has plenty of, from being able to prepare a staging area.

The next day the march went off as planned. Protestors gathered at Children’s Park beginning around 2, the march was slated to go at 4, and it did. My wife Katheryn and I arrived around 3. We had found some old paint and made up signs using Home Depot storage boxes that we cut apart. Katheryn’s said “Mr. President, Tear Down This Wall Street.” Mine, on one side said, “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down — Joshua 6:20” and on the other said “Corporate Criminals, Playing with Banks--The Call”. The Call’s song, “The Walls Came Down” says “playing with tanks” but I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded the poetic license. I don’t know if Joshua says anything about walls “tumbling” down at Jericho. The signs we saw at the starting point covered many issues but most focused on capitalism, or a euphemism for it. End Corporate Greed, Rein in Wall Street, End the Fed, Chop from the Top. I say an 80 something woman carrying a poem, the first letters highlighted:

Overfed

Insensitive

Not regulated

Katastrophe

My dad once told me that we could say what we like about the capitalists, but don’t call us pigs. The old lady carrying the sign must have had the same upbringing as I did.

There was one sign representing the Tea Party, another against Smart Meters claiming they cause cancer. There were kids who looked like 60s hippies carrying the peace sign, and old hippies who looked like the folks next door who wanted to bring home the troops. The dominant posters were “We are the 99%” and “Occupy San Diego. But there were almost as signs saying, “Occupy Everything.”

The march started, those wearing “security” patches directed us up the street and we marched and chanted. The streets were blocked off by the police--they knew the parade route and so did the organizers, the central committee or whatever you want to call it. But they weren’t telling anybody-- for our own good, I suppose. No need giving the Tea Party any information that they could pass on to their thugs.

We took a circuitous route to the Civic Center and occupied the space that the public who attend events there can mill around during intermissions. The space, which drops down from one street, is enclosed by building on three sides. A banner, 4 feet by 15 was stretched across one of the building’s balconies that said, “Wall Street got bailed out, the people got sold out.” That was one of the slogans chanted. Another, “The people, united, will never be divided” (which has been around for decades) or “What does democracy look like?” answered with “This is what democracy looks like.” There were no speeches, there was music and the coffee stand, that is part of the Civic Center for its events, was doing sell-out business.

Original plans were to stay and occupy the Civic Center until whenever, but plans changed when Occupy San Diego learned that a celebration had been planned for Yom Kippur — probably a year in advance, and the Jewish community had asked Occupy San Diego, either through their Facebook page or contacted them through their website, to not camp out there that night. So we marched back to Children’s Park before sunset in honor of the Jewish holiday.

Katheryn and I went home to watch the news. Fox said hundreds marched, the more liberal stations estimated 1500. There were probably more. Those who were going to occupy the Civic Center the next day were making camp for the night at Children’s Park when we left. The next day, Sunday, I called Bud. He was down at the Civic Center with his wife where OccupySD had marched from Children’s Park earlier that day. Katheryn and I drove down, found Bud standing at the bottom of B Street waiting for me. I got out to see what was happening while Katheryn drove around the block. The Civic center was filled with people, some who were camping out in their tents.

Cops were standing around in groups. Bud said there was talk going around that the cops were distributing plastic handcuffs to the riot squad. Unless they were going to issue an order to disperse, I doubted it--the campout was too peaceful. Guitars, some singing. Teach-ins.

Today, looking at their Facebook, I saw a lively dialogue. People posted for what they needed: blankets, extension cords, etc. On one string from yesterday I saw more than one person asking will the March be today? Yesterday they had marched to one of the banks. No one answered that question. But the marches always start from the Civic Center. Other posts: Don’t talk to the police without realizing they are recording your conversation and can use it as evidence. Someone posted that there was a run on banks and immediately told to cool it and get the facts. Evidently some pundit politician said if you don’t like Bank of America’s fees, vote with your feet and take your money out.

They also have a live feed and you can see what is happening there in real time. Their live stream depends on a generator that someone donated and they can only run it four hours before they have to give it a rest, but when it’s down, someone plugs in their Mac or Dell and run them as long as their batteries last.  As I write, they have their live stream running and a moderator, a young woman, is explaining to the viewers (240) what is happening, what is needed, and answering questions that are being posted on the live chat which is running beside the video live stream. Right now she is talking about the split between those who want to commit civil disobedience, and those who don’t. Some who are on the live chat are all for “getting it on.” They are discouraged.

It’s amazing how fast they’ve organized, but considering the Internet resources available, maybe not. One thing the instant messaging is being used for is to squash rumors, and it works. The moderator says there are probably 400 people there but they can’t tell because so many are in their tents. it’s amazing how fast rumors are squashed.

As I was watching, they are reported that somebody from 5 stories up on the parking structure beside the Civic Center fell. The police bands are calling in a 11-44 which is a call for a coroner. Someone said there was a sign hanging where he jumped, saying “revolution”. They are speculating that he was protester trying to hang the sign. The chat beside the live stream is going crazy with speculation about what happened and the opportunists are saying this wouldn’t have happened if Wall Street hadn’t screwed us. After all the speculation, it turned out to be a suicide unrelated to Occupy San Diego.

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