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Occupy SF marchers take over vacant building

Occupy SF activists put the mostly moribund movement back in the spotlight Sunday, taking over an unoccupied building owned by the Archdiocese of San Francisco with plans to establish a "permanent occupation" that would serve as shelter and a center for services for homeless people.


The activists entered the building at 888 Turk St. about 5:45 p.m. Sunday, after a peaceful rally and march from Union Square earlier in the day.


About 100 activists and supporters took up residence in the two-story commercial structure, believed to be a former music building of nearby Sacred Heart Cathedral High School and located within sight of archdiocesan headquarters at St. Mary's Cathedral.


Police, who had monitored the protesters' actions all day, stood by as protesters entered the building, which had already been opened by other activists. Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak said the department was "still talking" to the building's owner to determine the next step.


Reached late Sunday, archdiocesan spokesman George Wesolek said church officials had decided to ask police not to take any immediate action.


"We will revisit the situation in the morning," he said.


The well-organized takeover of the structure is the first major undertaking by the Occupy movement in San Francisco since protesters' encampment on the Embarcadero was cleared out by police in December.


Challenge to archdiocese


It presents a new challenge not just to the building's owners, but also to San Francisco city officials, who now may have to deal with a different kind of encampment and tactic than they did previously. Several U.S. cities and other agencies, notably Oakland and UC Berkeley in the Bay Area, have struggled with their responses to the Occupy protests.


Emma Gerould, who identified herself as an Occupy SF spokeswoman, said the protesters were aware the building belonged to the archdiocese and intended to put Catholic officials on the spot.


"There is no reason why any building should be vacant when people have no housing," Gerould said. "We ask that the archdiocese do the right thing and allow these services in these buildings."


A banner hung from the building quoted the Lord's Prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses."


In flyers they handed out, activists announced the "grand opening" of the building as the "San Francisco Commune." They immediately began organizing the space inside, designating public and sleeping areas, even setting up a smoking room.


Marcher Julia Cheng, 25, of Chicago settled into a spot inside the building, setting up a sleeping bag and hanging a sign reading "Home Sweet Home."


"We want to show that housing is unfair because people were lured into predatory loans," she said. "This is like the Second French Revolution all over again."


Organizers of the April Fool's Day action had pledged before the event that a vacant building in San Francisco would become the home of a "permanent occupation" and a refuge for homeless people in the city.


Before the occupation, more than 300 people marched through the Tenderloin to the Western Addition, playing music, chanting slogans and carrying signs saying "House Keys Not Handcuffs" as police officers looked on and blocked traffic.


When marchers reached the building, a two-story commercial structure advertised for lease by HC&M Commercial Properties, they were met by activists dressed in black who had already entered the building and allowed them inside.


April Fool's Day action


The event, described in a press release as "poor people play April Fool's prank on Union Square," was promoted as part of a supposed 12-city April Fool's Day action designed to "demonstrate poor people's right to exist in public space."


Speakers protested laws that keep homeless people from sitting, lying down, hanging out "and - perhaps worst of all - sleeping," organizers said. They said that citations for offenses like these comprised "roughly one-third of all prosecuted offenses in San Francisco at the end of 2011."


Paul Boden, one of the organizers, told the crowd at Union Square that area businesses "are targeting poor people as being bad for business. If you ain't shopping, they don't want you around here."


Before leaving Union Square, those assembled were joined by a contingent from Occupy Oakland, who arrived on an old AC Transit bus. The bus, decorated with graffiti and fitted with a screen door at its entrance, followed the marchers along the route.


The protesters parked the bus in front of the Turk Street building, which is located across the street from a retirement community. As night fell, loud music blared from the back of the bus until police asked the activists to lower the volume, and they complied.

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i wonder what would come about afterward when occupy is over. So many brilliant people from so many places in the same place at the same time intermingling with each other and picking each others brains. What is the over all goal and what steps are being taken to reach those goals besides protesting?





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I don't know..."occupy" has become the media's generic label for just about any protest since last summer, and that sets up an image in most people's minds of a bunch of kids in tents who are pissed off but not exactly sure why. However, the Gill Tract issue is pretty cut and dried, and from what I can tell everyone seems to share the same intentions and expectations and are willing to work their asses off to make it happen.


It's unlike any other occupation I've seen.

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I personally don't like Occupy, great ideas, bad execution. In nyc, it's just a bunch of white kids with their anarchy pamphlets and books, with the token black or minority there to validate their "mission".


Occupy comes into the hoods of brooklyn handing out pamphlets and no one has time for that. while you're giving up your jobs and living on the streets as protest, others must go to work to survive, not just for themselves but for a populace of people that has no backups, savings, and lower than normal unemployment rates.


A lot of people in my neightborhood don't want these white college-aged kids preaching to them about oppression. We fucking know, we've had 400 years of it. 9% unemployment? try 25% for the black communities in urban areas.


Just my piece, y'all.

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It had to get pretty ridiculous before I walked away from OO, but I was an activist for years before OWS and that hasn't changed (and won't change).


In Oakland, a certain faction of people decided to take whatever good will OO had left and throw it back in the face of the community....when I said "hey, if this is about making the world a better place, then we need to listen when the community says they've had enough," I was called an Uncle Tom and a Peace Cop and censured. All they wanted to hear was that they were badasses and all they wanted to see was news clips of them breaking shit...there's not much room for constructive criticism there.


There's still good stuff happening here, and I'm still part of it but at this point in my life I don't have time for power plays and drama....it's pretty clear to the longstanding radical community in the East Bay that whatever momentum OO had is over with.


It is good to see that the OWS folks are doing good things after Sandy in NYC, but they should be doing that anyway without the "see, OWS is good, the media just makes us look bad" song and dance. If that's not the case, then I take that back...but it sure looks like they're playing their good deeds up in the press from here.

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