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Thursday, October 27, 2011

OccupySF: Politicians Crash the Party

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 1:55 PM

click to enlarge Hey, I support the movement, too! Solidarity!
  • Hey, I support the movement, too! Solidarity!

Those grumbling about the caliber of people camping out at Justin Herman plaza can't be thrilled about the latest wave of demonstrators drawn to OccupySF: politicians.

Last night a near-quorum of the Board of Supervisors squatted along with the squatters, which brings the OccupySF movement to a strange place indeed. A group notable for its lack of tangible goals or demands now has the ear -- if not the cell phone numbers -- of a platoon of the city's most powerful elected officials.

And, for those officials, what, exactly, does it mean to "support" OccupySF? And can you do so at night while passing tax breaks for large corporations during the day?

Of course you can!

Supervisor David Chiu is currently in a committee meeting, but his legislative aide, Judson True, said the so-called "Twitter tax break" and others like it are actually serving the interests of the 99 percent. Giving Twitter, for example, a big break on its taxes keeps them in town, keeps the jobs they'll create in town, and keeps the business they'll bring to mid-Market in mid-Market. "It's simply good for the economy and good for the city to keep Twitter here, keep jobs and growth here."

Fair enough. But being as the folks camping out on the street now have politicians wading into their ranks, it'd be interesting to see how many of them requested large tax breaks be given to corporations in order to spur a trickle-down effect of prosperity -- but only in certain retail corridors.

click to enlarge A "Hooverville" of the 1930s
  • A "Hooverville" of the 1930s
Public Defender Jeff Adachi, also a mayoral candidate, spent about two hours observing the folks who'd likely be his future legal clients in the case of a police crackdown. He said he "supports OccupySF," but couldn't clarify exactly what it is he's supporting. He said he was pleasantly surprised by the orderliness and diversity of the gathered throngs and understood their "general sense of frustration" -- but wasn't entirely sure what he, or anyone, could do that would lead to folks packing up and heading back to their own homes. "It is unclear what, exactly, they are asking for."

That's no clearer after Occupiers attended last week's Board of Supervisors meeting. With all due respect, many of those who deigned to speak sounded little different from the usual inane people who comment at supes meetings. The repeated notion that the shaggy encampment on the waterfront, and not the meeting they were speaking at, was "real" democracy said a lot, however. Sad as it may be, the chant "this is what democracy looks like" is far more applicable at any number of the oft-interminable meetings this city hosts than a tent city populated by justifiably angry people who have erected a tent city to express their justifiable anger.

It would seem to be high time to move on to Step 2 in the movement (Step 1 is, apparently, "occupy public spaces in protest of the status quo."). "How should we create a more just and equitable society?" is a nebulous question to pose to anyone. But when someone is sleeping on public property and running his devices with an old car battery in hopes of achieving justice and equality, it's a necessary question.

Finally, it would seem the presence of a number of elected officials in business attire may have helped prevent a heavy-handed eviction of the squatters as took place across the bay. The chance to have a city supervisor sit on the street next to you is fleeting, however. You never know when the Next Big Thing may draw his or her attention. If OccupySF wants to work with the "City Family," the opportunity is there. The encampment may be in District 3, but District 3 Supervisor Chiu

has expressed that he doesn't want a permanent encampment on his turf.

The clock is ticking. 

Update, 3 p.m.
: Supervisor David Campos says he supports the protesters' right to peaceably assemble -- and doesn't believe the supposed health hazards mentioned by those who'd like to see them gone justify a forcible eviction.

As far as aiding the Occupy movement beyond the simple act of occupying, that's complicated. "There are larger issues that go beyond what happens in the city and county of San Francisco," he says. "The kind of systemic change they're calling for in terms of corporate accountability and protecting the public vis-a-vis corporations and Wall Street calls for a great deal of involvement from people who haven't been involved before."

This will require "a lot of work." It cannot be accomplished by merely occupying Justin Herman Plaza. But, Campos notes, this is just the beginning. "What the specific outcomes are, I don't know. I don't think [the occupiers] themselves know. But I think the recognition is, what's happening is not working for us."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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