San Francisco Occupiers Fight Back Against Wall Street


SAN FRANCISCO — We were still a block away when the first Occupy SF protester approached us. He asked if we were here for the march, then handed us a quarter-page flyer with three solidarity fists at the top. Joe Liesner, 68, wasn’t camping out with the protesters outside the Federal Reserve Building in San Francisco, most of whom were in their 20s and 30s.

Liesner, who works with East Bay Food Not Bombs, had just finished helping set up the kitchen. His organization provided the occupiers with a field stove and propane. He was excited, eager to talk and easily came up with a list of personal demands he wants the movement to accomplish — war coverage from non-military personnel, “real” regulation of the financial sector, even a Constitutional Convention. But he made clear he wasn’t a spokesperson for the movement. The occupiers were still figuring out what they wanted.

Fifty or so protesters milled around the camp, which spans most of the block between Spear and Main streets in San Francisco’s Financial District. Sara Husain, a 23-year-old recent transplant to Oakland, Calif., gave us a tour while a group of protesters discussed plans for that afternoon’s march and others worked on new signs.

For a movement that claims to have no leadership, the camp is incredibly organized. There’s a tent for the finance committee, and a designated kitchen area, where the Kitchen Committee keeps track of food and supply donations. The Media Committee tent is equipped with computers where protesters keep the Facebook page and OccupySF site up to date. The Art committee was busy making signs to replace the ones that didn’t make it through the previous night’s rainstorm.

Husain just moved to the Bay Area one month ago from Ohio and she was recruited at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival over the weekend. Occupiers traveled to the free festival in Golden Gate Park to spread their message and recruit new people. Husain arrived at the camp with just the clothes on her back and her purse. In four short days, the 100-block of Market St. became her home. She’d only been to her apartment once to pick up supplies and shower, but she’s already talking about subletting her room.

Xander — an Arkansas native who wouldn’t give his last name — has big plans for the camp. He was one of the first occupiers who moved in on Sept. 17. He wants to reorganize the tents and create better security and medical facilities.

The occupiers govern by consensus. Every evening at 6 p.m. they have a general meeting to discuss plans, initiatives and outreach. “It’s a hub,” Xander says. “The 99 percent movement is about bringing everybody together who is dissatisfied with a society that has run away from itself.” Everyone we talked to stressed that every person is welcome to join, even if they don’t want to camp out.

Xander (and most of the others) looks the part of a San Francisco protester. He is slim with curly shoulder-length hair dressed in well-worn clothes. He’s passionate about the movement. When I asked how long he plans to stay outside the Fed, he threw his hands into the air and shrugged. The message: as long as it takes.

A police officer walked by us and Xander leapt away to have a friendly chat with him. He’s very concerned with keeping the movement peaceful. “Violence and vandalism is not part of the game,” he insists.

One thing was clear: the movement that started on Wall Street takes on different meanings for each protester in each city. It’s about more than reforming banks and government, it’s about reforming society. “It’s not just a demonstration against corporate influence in government,” Xander says. “We’re people wanting to live openly and honestly.”


Related Stories:

Environmentalists, Labor Unions Will Occupy Wall Street

5 Reasons Why the Occupy Wall Street Protests Embody Values of the Real Boston Tea Party

‘Occupy Wall Street’ Issues First Official Declaration


Photo credit: Laura Burge


William C
William C2 months ago

Thank you.

W. C
W. C10 months ago


Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Thank you for article.

Tim Paich
Tim P5 years ago

I host a group and have a petition that's about reshaping the world and Maybe wall street is part of the problem for the economy crash in 2007 near the end.

My petition needs 1,000 signatures in total.

Tom Y.
Tom Y6 years ago

This wave of protests will accomplish...what, exactly?

Better to be a person quietly networking and developing plans to undo at least some of the problems the West faces now: the human touch carried on through interpersonal contact and quiet persuasion can achieve so much more than a crowd at the Stock Exchange. The problem is, there are people who'll be persuaded that showy, street-carnival affect displays are the way to get things done... and they're not!

Robert O.
Bob B6 years ago

The recently released New York declaration says "corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth".

That seems to be the idea behind much of the declaration and the movement, yet it is utterly wrong and ridiculous.

Corporations exist only because they, in fact, seek and get consent from customers. That is, the customers voluntarily decide to buy the corporation's goods and services.

A corporation cannot survive without the consent of their customers unless the corporation is a government owned or sanctioned monopoly. In that case, there is no consent sought or given.

However, some of the corporations on Wall Street (eg. Goldman Sachs) are crooked and have found ways (with the government's consent and involvement) to carry out their crooked schemes. That should be the focus of this movement, but it isn't.

Bill V.
Bill V.6 years ago

The focus of this protest should be to abolish the Federal Reserve which is a private bank that gained total control over our nations currency in 1913. The FED prints dollars out of thin air and gives it to whom they wish with no congressional oversight and in turn devalues every dollar that was already in circulation. Objectives should be:
1) abolish the federal reserve act of 1913.
2) return the purse strings of our nation to congress as the founders intended.
3) make gold and silver legal currencies AGAIN.
4) Hold congress accountable to our monetary policies.

Glenn M.
Glenn Meyer6 years ago

Catt R.

What is their goal? I can’t tell. The only thing I can think of is that maybe they want some prosecutions...wealthy or corporate taxes... the bail outs reversed? You tell me.

I am NOT a religious capitalist and in fact our relationship to China makes capitalism and communism almost indistinguishable. I see corporate greed as the problem, not the solution but without focus or a concrete goal the protests amount to venting..

I am sorry that my comments embarrass you. Your comments sadden me.

Out-sourcing U.S. jobs to foreign countries is THE profound and fundamental change that has had an easily recognizable destructive effect on the economy that explains the unemployment, the real estate collapse, and the federal deficits. It is UN-AMERICAN by definition and could be restricted if there was as much public protest as there is in Wall Street now. As I have said before, if not, then it will have to get much worse before it ever gets better regardless of whether people are protesting in Wall Street or not just because they don’t like them. It simply will not change otherwise.

The sad thing is that I have to assume nobody cares because nobody is protesting. It does not appear to be important to you. The end result is that this depression will and must continue until enough people really do care.

Marie W.
Marie W6 years ago

So much is wrong.. I am surprized such protests didn't happen sooner.

Bruce Van Tassell

Share the wealth end the debt world wide.