Twenty-four people who identify with Occupy San Francisco were arrested early Wednesday morning for trespassing, as San Francisco police and sheriff’s officers moved in to clear out 888 Turk Street, a building the group took over during Tuesday’s May Day protests.  I spoke with a few of them as they left the Hall of Justice after being cited or booked.  A police spokesperson had described this morning’s action as nonviolent, but a protester who identified himself as “Bear” said while that was literally true, he felt threatened.

An officer asked me “How many teeth are you missing?” I said “None”. He said, “Ah….that’s too bad.”  They were pointing what they were saying was “non-lethal” rounds at us, threatening us. They were being horrible.  They weren’t treating us like people at all, they were treating us like animals.

Bear said the plan had been to establish what they called the “SF Commune” to house those in need of shelter at the Turk Street building.

There’s 10,000 homeless in San Francisco, there’s 35,000 empty buildings. Something’s gotta happen.

Jai Veda was also arrested, cited and released.  He claims that the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco — which owns 888 Turk Street — had been in talks with Occupy and was open to the proposed shelter.

We’d been negotiating with them for almost a month.  And we had to wait for Holy Week, and we had to wait for this, and we had to wait for that, and then they tell us the building isn’t technically theirs any more. That was disappointing, but I got over the disappointment pretty quick and decided that I would stay and sleep in the building. I woke up at 4 AM and thought “Oh, they’re not raiding. Maybe it’s safe. Maybe I can go back to sleep.”  And then an hour later, I hear them outside getting ready, and I’m like, oh, no.  I guess I am getting arrested.  But being a first offense and all, they let me go in a matter of hours.

Veda said the message of Occupy has a broad appeal.

Even my conservative parents say they agree with a lot of the stuff — my father’s a Tea Partier.  They (the Tea Party and Occupy) are pretty much the same thing, except one does these tactics and the other works in the system. Eventually maybe these two groups will merge and realize they’re fighting for the same thing. There is no reason among all this technological wonder that anyone should go without basic human need.  They wrote that Human Rights Declaration almost fifty years ago and we still have yet to keep it applying to everyone.

Protester Sam Pressman — who added “spelled like ‘we need a free press, man'” — told me that Occupiers are frustrated by what they perceive as negative coverage.

Any movement that devolves into violence is going to have trouble gaining credibility, especially in the media.  The night before, a TV reporter came in to the building and was interviewing people, and she said “Don’t worry, I’m only here if things get violent or if you guys start rioting.”  And it was like, damn, really?  You guys should be here to tell our stories of what we want to do, not just when things fall apart.

At this point, a man passed us on the sidewalk, glanced at the group of recently released protesters, some wrapped in the blankets they’d been sleeping in when they were arrested, and said “Occupy movement, yay!” Pressman said that’s a common reaction.

You know, people drive by and they honk. They want to believe in this.  If the media’s only portrayal of this is that one person threw a rock from the roof, and that some anarchists blew down storefronts, that will not give credence to the deeper meaning of what Occupy is trying to do.

That “rock from the roof” referred to an incident yesterday where two men threw objects — including bricks and pipes — from the roof of 888 Turk and an adjacent building.  One was arrested and the other left before police could find him.  As reporters talked to the group of Occupy protesters in front of the Hall of Justice this morning, a man who’d been waiting for them volunteered that the one who’d been caught was “a little bit shell-shocked” and “had an anxiety attack” as a result of earlier encounters with the police.  Others in the group interrupted him and told him not to make admissions like that in front of reporters.

Author

Nina Thorsen

Nina Thorsen is a radio producer and director, and frequently reports on sports issues.  Previously, she produced and co-created KQED's "Pacific Time" and was the deputy foreign editor for "Marketplace". Thorsen began her public radio career while a student at the University of Minnesota, as a ticket taker for "A Prairie Home Companion".

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