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Report from San Francisco Greek Solidarity March, December 20th

Solidarity march in San Francisco for Greece

The march convergence point was called by organizers for 4pm at the intersection of 24th and Mission St. Some background for those of you not familiar with San Francisco or recent anarchist organizing history in this neighborhood:

The Mission, like many neighborhoods in the U.S. has been under the heavy assault of gentrification for well over a decade. A predominantly Latino neighborhood, the Mission District saw a particularly brutal episode of gentrification during the dot-com boom where MBAs from across the country rushed to silicon valley for the start-ups. They wanted to live in the Mission because of it's hip "ethnicness", sunny weather and all of it softened and desensitized by the young artists and counter-culture. This lost some steam after the bubble burst but the Mission continues to be gentrified rapidly by yuppies and hipsters.

Report from San Francisco Greek Solidarity March, December 20th

There hasn't been an official report back from the action organized in San Francisco in solidarity with the Greek uprising. Many apologies for that as it has led to uninformed commentary following a brief and hyperbolic SF Chronicle article (on infoshop.org). Below is a report from one of the organizers of the action. Hopefully it will answer some of the questions on people's minds and material to draw lessons on for our future efforts. ...................

The march convergence point was called by organizers for 4pm at the intersection of 24th and Mission St. Some background for those of you not familiar with San Francisco or recent anarchist organizing history in this neighborhood:

The Mission, like many neighborhoods in the U.S. has been under the heavy assault of gentrification for well over a decade. A predominantly Latino neighborhood, the Mission District saw a particularly brutal episode of gentrification during the dot-com boom where MBAs from across the country rushed to silicon valley for the start-ups. They wanted to live in the Mission because of it's hip "ethnicness", sunny weather and all of it softened and desensitized by the young artists and counter-culture. This lost some steam after the bubble burst but the Mission continues to be gentrified rapidly by yuppies and hipsters.

On July 5th, 2005 a Anti-G8 march was organized by anarchists in solidarity with the protests taking place in Scotland. A crowd of around 300 marched in the Mission District thrashing symbols of state and capitalist power. Once the police responded and arrived at the scene one officer got whacked across the head with a skateboard. This lead to arrests and legal hassles for a number of people.

Both of these factors were on people's minds during the organizing of the solidarity action.

.............

The call for the action (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/12/18/18555395.php) was specifically for a march followed by a general assembly to talk and organize around the collapsing economy, police brutality and the gentrification in the Mission. Those who organized the action included anarchists who have been organizing in the Bay Area for years, those who have just moved here and members of Iraq Vets Against the War. The action was organized in only three days by daily meetings (sometimes multiple ones in one day) and amongst other proposals a plan was chosen to have a non-confrantational march in the Mission District that would culminate in the occupation of New College where we would have a general assembly and attempt to hold the space for as long as we could.

New College is a now defunct private college with liberal left tendencies. The collage went bankrupt last spring owing partially to mismanagement and also to the swings of financial pressures. Two large buildings, in the middle of the Mission District have been sitting empty and have been placed on the real estate market. One of these buildings has been sold and will become an upscale toy store, the other is still in the process of being liquidated. We thought it would be an ideal space for a social center, with a large auditorium and multiple rooms that could be used for a variety of purposes. In fact the building has been used for various anarchist and left events and projects in the past.

---------

We gathered at 24th and Mission and after about 45 minutes approximately 200 people were assembled. We had a mobile sound-system in a shopping cart, anarchist flags and banners which read "Solidarity with the greek uprising," "Stop Police Violence," "Organize, Prepare for Capitalist Crisis," Police out of Greece, US out of the World," amongst others. Organizers had printed out leaflets that explained the events in Greece and tied it into our current, local context. None of us had anticipated the course of events that night and had not printed out enough leaflets for the whole duration of the march. It is a pity that there weren't enough to pass out by the time we would arrive to the Westfield Mall.

anarchist_rally_2008_038.jpg

We marched down Mission St., occasionally picking up supporters along the way. Important to note is that many passersby who saw the banner "Stop Police Violence", cheered or honked in support. Once we arrived to the front of New College, we realized that previous rumors we had heard that the police had information of our intentions were in fact true. The front gate to the building was chained and locked. There were undercover police officers inside and a line of cops on the outside. A couple of banners were dropped from the roof by people who had already entered the building previously to facilitate the occupation, they read "Burn the Banks, Smash the State", "Solidarity with Greek Uprising"

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This was the point where the march began to take a life of its own as we did not have clearly thought out contingency plans for what to do next. After speeches announcing our original intentions an impromptu facilitation took place where the group (around 100 people at this point) tried to decide what to do next. The momentum and energy was still present and most wanted to march on. And so we did.

anarchist_rally_2008_092.jpg

We marched down Valencia st., ground zero for Mission District yuppification, with chants against the rich and gentrification. It was clear that the trendy crowd were much less supportive to us than when we were on Mission street, only a couple blocks east. The spontaneity of the march grew after we left New College and when we came to the Mission Police Station it was more than evident that we should make a stop. The crowd rushed its way through police who were hastily trying to form lines and arrived at the front of the cop shop. More speeches were made on the sound-system about why we were there. At this point what we had thought to be a general assembly had degenerated into an open mic and some of the organizers tried to facilitate another discussion about what should come next. Some said we should occupy a yuppie restaurant and feast and others said we should go to the branch of Wells Fargo around the corner.

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As we marched to Wells Fargo it became more and more apparent that the action was degenerating into confusion and helplessness. The same kind of speeches were made in front of Wells Fargo and more decisions were tried to be made but the enthusiasm was clearly dying. Thankfully the group decided that the best course of action would be to bring our presence to the downtown, shopping district of San Francisco.

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The energy had clearly increased as we had a clear destination in mind. It seemed to me that our numbers grew again to around 150. The majority of the crowd was masked up but this was far from a black bloc in character and spirit. The energy was continually increasing as we started to run down the last block of valencia street to make it onto Market St. (the main street of San Francisco that runs through downtown). We held our space over two lanes and the cops let us march as we pleased. This is a clear difference from other major cities across the US (i.e. New York City), where taking over lanes of traffic in an un-permitted and spontaneous march is enough reason to unleash batons and make arrests. Police on motorbikes and cruisers just marched alongside us trying to maintain their presence.

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The march down Market st. was without question one of the most successful parts of the action. We had major visibility as we went down the main artery of San Francisco and there was a clear sense of excitement as we approached downtown, seeing it from a distance. The group continued chanting against police and in solidarity with the insurrection in Greece. And then we came to the front of the Westfield mall.

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The entry into the Westfield Mall was also fully spontaneous and not part of any plan as far as I am aware. It was just self-evident (similar to our stop in front of the Mission Police Station) that we needed to enter this temple of consumerism. The Westfield Mall is not your typical suburban cookie cutter mall but a high-class shopping center with many designer stores and even exclusive spaces for those who can afford to pay. Entering the mall with our sound-system, banners, and chants re-lifted the energy once again as we had a completely clueless audience who throughout the five floors of the mall were having their holiday shopping briefly interrupted by a dose of reality, having to stop and wonder what the fuck was going on in Greece and police violence. At this point the police were clearly fed up with us following our anti-capitalist instincts for hours throughout San Francisco and wanted us out of the mall. So they attacked and arrested a couple of the participants. At this point some of us wrecked a kiosk and attacked some windows in retaliation. 640_3124176093_0bf668837a_b.jpg original image ( 1024x683)

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Acknowledging that there are already countless reasons to shatter plate glass it is important to note that the small degree of property destruction that took place was after the police attacked us. The police continued attacking people and making arrests. The mood was quickly electrified as we started to yell in the faces of the cops to release our comrades. I observed a handful of shoppers also join in and call for the release of those arrested. The atmosphere of the mall was completely transformed and it was clear that there was an anti-police sentiment sweeping through the ground floor, not just from us but by people who were already there. Other young people on the street who had had no idea what was going on came into the mall with clear excitement on their faces and willing to join in in yelling at the police.

After a while the police were able to push everyone out of the mall. There was a crowd of about 250 in front of the mall composed of those who had marched from the Mission, others who had just joined in out of hatred for the cops and random people who were around. We still had the sound-system and used this opportunity to announce to the crowd the reasons behind our presence there and the situation in Greece. At this point we realized that those arrested inside were in the paddy wagon in front of the mall. An attempt was made to surround the vehicle while banging on the sides of the paddy wagon, those inside responded by banging from the inside. The police pushed people away and took the vehicle down the street.

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Noticing that there was still energy and momentum within the crowd we decided to march towards Union Square, where the height of holiday spirit in San Francisco was present, including the city's massive christmas tree. We ran through the streets, occasionally tossing garbage bins to prevent the police cruisers from following us and concluded at the tree where more speeches were given to explain to the holiday crowd why we were there. At this point the corporate media had shown up and some people gave interviews to the press.

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..............

Overall it is hard to call this action a resounding success. But it was clearly rescued from being an utter failure due to the energy and spontaneity within the crowd following the foiling of our plans to occupy a space in the Mission and turn it into a social center. Had the crowd not decided to march to to downtown San Francisco I am sure that people would have left fully disappointed. What ended up happening is that a good number of people going about their shopping realized that there was a full blown uprising in Greece and people in San Francisco in solidarity with them. The instance in the mall, overplayed by the SF Chronicle, was some sort of culmination, but really only one part of everything that went down that evening including a nighttime attack on a Bank of America in the upscale West Portal neighborhood (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/12/21/18555975.php).

We had organized legal support and people have been going to court to support our friends on the inside. We still have one more comrade in jail who will hopefully come out tomorrow.

Our original intention of occupying spaces and organizing out of them was one that we saw fitting into a larger organizing strategy, looking into the future, trying to (re)build an anarchist movement in the Bay Area. Rest assured that this is still our our priority. The events that took place in Greece in the past weeks give us a glimmer of what is possible when we are strong and organized. We won't just sit back and watch it on the internet but work towards similar and better uprisings in our own local contexts.

To the many insurrections to come!

More pictures and Indymedia coverage at:

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/12/18/18555410.php

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Report from San Francisco Greek Solidarity March, December 20th | 6 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Report from San Francisco Greek Solidarity March, December 20th
Authored by: HPWombat on Friday, December 26 2008 @ 02:40 PM CST
Fuck yeah!

Also fuck the SFChronicle.

---
embrace the dork side
Report from San Francisco Greek Solidarity March, December 20th
Authored by: JBizzle on Friday, December 26 2008 @ 05:45 PM CST
I'm glad there's finally a report on this.
It seems to be a very successful action, actually. You managed to get your side out to a pretty receptive audience and there was more energy in this action than there was in a lot of similar solidarity actions.

So, I guess you can say fuck you to all the nay sayers.

I know this isn't my struggle, so I probably shouldn't offer any advice, but I think you all should still go full steam ahead on occupying that center. Occupations and liberation of autonomous spaces are probably one of the more visable and productive things anarchists can do, and this space sounds like an incredible resource. I doubt the SFPD will occupy and defend it for too long, and instead of making the occupation happen suddenly with a large group (which can obviously be anticapted an thwarted by the SFPD) you could wait unti the police presence is gone, then infiltrate covertly and build the momentum up day by day to eventually have a full community presence in the space.
maybe that's a dumb idea though.
Just a suggestion.
Solidarity with you mo fos.
Report from San Francisco Greek Solidarity March, December 20th
Authored by: amoryresistencia on Saturday, December 27 2008 @ 04:27 PM CST
Good Job SF/Bay Area!!!
It is great to see a rowdy street action roll through the streets of San Francisco again. Thank you for clarifying this action for the haters who seem to always take the corporate media at face value against their 'comrades'. Too bad the occupation didn't work out, it is a great idea. Occupying space should be a priority for us here in the US, and I hope that 2009 ushers in a new wave of occupations and confrontation. The energy around the Greek solidarity actions in the US has been invigorating I hope that this bodes well for the near future.
To the coming insurrection!
Report from San Francisco Greek Solidarity March, December 20th
Authored by: beret on Saturday, December 27 2008 @ 08:00 PM CST
I don't think it's fair to label everyone who asked questions, or who didn't uncritically embrace the SF action as "haters." I was at this action, and I can personally attest that once the march entered the mall, it was difficult to figure out what the fuck was going on. This reportback seems pretty accurate from what I saw, but just because some anarchist wrote something doesn't mean we should uncritically accept it anymore than we should the Chron's bullshit.
Report from San Francisco Greek Solidarity March, December 20th
Authored by: lawrence on Saturday, December 27 2008 @ 10:44 PM CST
Nobody is accepting anything uncritically. However, I'd defer to the overall accuracy of a report written by a participant who's vaguely on my side instead of (critically) accepting the reportage of a person whose job is to be hostile toward me and my allies.
Report from San Francisco Greek Solidarity March, December 20th
Authored by: rhizome on Sunday, December 28 2008 @ 10:21 AM CST
I'm glad things ended up in Union Square. For those of you who weren't in S.F. then, Willie Brown and corporate interests 'renovated' Union Square in '99- the point of this make-over was to make it easier for this nominally public park to be handed over to private corporations for events. It was flattened out and pretty much made into a staging area. Also, retail establishments (See's Candies, a slick cafe, a ticket agency) were allowed to open up within Union Square. Though Union Square for decades was the traditional gathering spot for folks on New Year's Eve, it has been closed to the public on that night since '98- the higher-ups don't trust the SFPD to handle crowd control (which is also why the city has 'cancelled' Halloween in the Castro). There is now an ice rink in the park which is supoosedly for the benefit of non-profits like the Boys and Girls Club, etc., but it costs $12 per person and no-one there could tell me how much of that was given to charity- could be 1%, who knows? It's a scam. I'm pissed at how our spaces are taken away from us and redefined as restricted zones while commercial activity is allowed to flourish there. Adding insult to injury, Union Square had a long history of soapbox oratory, free speech, protest. I'd like to see more actions there.