San Francisco marked the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement against inequality and corporate greed with a citywide day of action on Monday. Digital Journal was on the scene at most of the day's demonstrations.
The day's action began with a noontime protest against foreclosures and evictions, organized by the Foreclosure and Eviction Fighters of Occupy Bernal, Occupy Noe and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE-SF), at the War Memorial Building. A small crowd of around 30 gathered to listen to elderly veterans facing foreclosure share their stories.
"Our seniors and veterans have been viciously set upon by the Wall Street banksters," Archbishop Franzo King of the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, who introduced the veterans and has faced foreclosure himself, said.
"We are not the criminals, we are the ones who crimes have been committed against," he added.
Robert Moses, a 92-year-old World War II Navy veteran facing foreclosure, recounted how he attempted to work out a loan modification with Deutsche Bank so he could stay in the home he bought 40 years ago for $79,000. Moses, who refinanced his loan to finance improvements necessary to bring his home into compliance with city code, saw his 7.75 percent interest rate soar by more than 66 percent. That inflated his monthly payment to an unaffordable $3,400.
"I applied for modification three times" without success, Moses lamented. "I think banks should give us a break. What do they want me to do? Get a part-time job at age 92?"
"Is this the way we reward our vets?" asked Archbishop King.
Many of the demonstrators gathered for the event then marched on a newly-opened branch of Chase bank across from City Hall. Around a dozen people entered the bank, where ACCE-SF members attempted to speak with the branch manager about loan modifications for homeowners facing foreclosure. Several police officers also entered the bank, but no one was arrested.
Later in the afternoon, a group of around 100 demonstrators gathered in Justin Herman Plaza, unofficially renamed Bradley Manning Plaza in honor of the imprisoned and abused US Army soldier who allegedly leaked classified US military files documenting war crimes in Iraq to the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. From there, the group marched through downtown San Francisco before rallying in front of the Federal Reserve Bank, where an Occupy encampment has existed for a year.
Several smaller events were staged throughout the afternoon in various parts of the city, including a 'Community Not Commodity' rally in the predominantly gay Castro district, where there was also a march and sit-in against the city's controversial 'Sit-Lie' law that opponents say criminalizes homelessness.
There was also a Move Your Money event, whose promoters advocate closing accounts at major banks and relying upon local banks and credit unions for financial services, a demonstration in front of the offices of Fortress Investment, whose CEO Peter Briger likened buying foreclosure and student loan debt to "garbage collection," and a 'Compost Your Debt' demonstration at Pacific Gas and Electric.
At 5:00 pm, a larger group of several hundred protesters again marched through downtown, stopping in front of branches of major banks including Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The demonstration staged a major rally and street party in front of Wells Fargo's world headquarters, with scores of police in riot helmets guarding the entrance to the building and standing at the ready on nearby streets. Protesters symbolically burned debt documents as a band played festive music in the background. There were no confrontations between police and demonstrators, although a few protesters did shout profane abuse at officers.
The mood was overwhelmingly festive and upbeat, especially compared to some of last year's Occupy marches. Protesters were optimistic that the Occupy movement, which suffered from plummeting participation following brutal police crackdowns, negative coverage by the corporate mainstream media, infiltration by pseudo-anarchist hooligans and the chill of winter, would enjoy a renaissance. Protester Mindy Stone of Oakland predicted the movement would spread to smaller towns and decried the ballot box as a means of achieving change.
"If we pretend that you can work within the system to fix that broken system, we're just complicit in maintaining the status quo," Stone, who has been involved with the Occupy movement since its inception, asserted.
Demonstrator Tian Harter stressed the need for everyone to participate in order to affect positive change.
"As a country our problems are so deep that the only way we're going to solve them is for all of us to take a personal responsibility for being part of the solution," Harter said.
An additional Bay Area protest is scheduled for the one-year anniversary of Occupy Oakland on October 10. Also, Scott Olsen, a former US Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq before being hospitalized with a fractured skull after getting shot in the head by a 'less-than-lethal' police projectile at an October Occupy protest, will be speaking at a September 23 event in Oakland.