April 1st marked a nation-wide day of action where Occupy camps in over 13 cities reclaimed their right to exist through demonstrations, marches and occupations. Occupy SF, after being forced out of their Embarcadero encampment last December, took to the streets yesterday in a mass march and occupation. Occupy supporters gathered in San Francisco’s Union Square throughout the morning and early afternoon to prepare for the day of action. They were met by Occupy Oakland at 4 pm which kicked off a peaceful march consisting of hundreds of supporters down both Geary and Van Ness, two of the main arteries in SF.
The activists marched through the consumer-saturated district in protest of the ravage homelessness that pervades the city. Tens of thousands of homeless individuals live in San Francisco, a city which has prioritized criminalization rather than community support for these individuals. The gradual gentrification of the city has forced thousands to be harassed and arrested for sleeping, sitting or lying down in public space outside. Additionally, hundreds of places that once offered services to poor, disabled or homeless have been shut down during the gentrification process by the city, increasing the amount of homeless in the streets without resources.
The Occupy movement has also been criminalized for similar actions. Ironically, in a city with thirty two thousand vacant units, homelessness is still widespread. Recognizing this injustice, Occupy SF took back the streets through the city’s tenderloin district in protest. The group culminated at the corner of Turk and Gough St. at building owned by the Catholic Archdiocese that has been reportedly vacant for over five years. Occupy marches arrived at their new home as a banner which read, “Organize Or Starve”, waved over the building.
The building was reportedly once a mental health clinic but was shut down after budget cuts, forcing many mentally ill to the streets of San Francisco to be subject to arrest. Occupy SF sees 888 Turk St. as a opportunity to revive the once vacant place as a commune that provides food, services, shelter, education and community betterment efforts, a manifestation of Occupy’s vision for a better world. A highly organized community was built inside of the building fit with a media floor, food space, communal room, and medical office.
Dozens of police cars, undercover officers and riot police were posted around a few block radius of the intersection of Turk and Gough. The police maintained a quiet but massively present watch on yesterday’s action. The future of the occupation of 888 Turk Street remains dependent on how quickly and forcefully the police move in on the activists.
Yesterday’s events highlight that the Occupy movement is alive. As one banner, draped across the occupied building read, “Fight Back: today, mayday, everyday”. Yesterday’s National Day of Action is only one in hundreds to come across the country as the movement declares its Right to Exist and continue to collectively organize.
Update: After successfully occupying 888 Turk St for the night, SF police evacuated the building on Monday afternoon. Almost eighty were arrested but were released soon after. The arrests came after the Archdiocese, the owners of the building, filed a citizen’s arrest against the protesters. The Archdiocese has stated that the building was not in fact vacant for five years but has been used recently for community activities. Although, at the time of the occupation, the building’s plumbing and water were both turned off, indicating its vacancy. The details are officially unclear, although residents near the area confirm that the building had not been used for some time.
More details about the aftermath of the occupation can be found here: