Victory in San Francisco:
S.F. Labor Movement Key to Preventing Raid of Occupy SF Encampment
By ALAN BENJAMIN
The San Francisco Chronicle reported today (Friday, October 28) that the
S.F. Police Department had mobilized large numbers of police officers and
special riot troops late Wednesday evening to raid and take down the Occupy
SF encampment under orders from Interim S.F. Mayor Ed Lee. But in the early
hours of Thursday morning, the Chronicle reports, the mayor and Police
Chief Greg Suhr reversed their decision and ordered the troops -- including a
big contingent of riot troops that had mobilized from Treasure Island toward
San Francisco at about 3 a.m. -- to back down and return to their home base
The lead article and the accompanying piece by editorial writer C.W.
Nevius noted that one of the main reasons for this about-face by the mayor and
police chief was the large turnout by union officers and members who had
come to help protect the encampment. Another reason was the all-night presence
at Occupy SF of five Board of Supervisors members.
The Chronicle articles are correct, but they don't tell the full story.
On Wednesday afternoon, a group of labor and community organizations met
with Mayor Lee to ask him if it was true, as had been widely rumored, that
he had ordered a raid of Occupy SF late that night because of "sanitation
Immediately following the meeting, Bobbi López, a member of SEIU 1021,
sent out an urgent memo in which she stated that during the meeting Mayor Lee
did not deny this rumor -- and this could only mean one thing: the order to
raid had been issued. Sister López called on all unionists to gather at
the encampment at 9:30 p.m. "to keep the movement going." A similar message
was sent out by S.F. Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson to Council
executive board members.
In less than two hours, an emergency-response labor phone and email tree
was activated, and by 9:30 p.m. more than 80 San Francisco union members --
including Paulson, SFLC President Mike Casey, SF Building Trades Council
Director Mike Therriault, SFLC Vice President Conny Ford, and six other
e-board members -- were at the encampment. The overwhelming majority were ready
to be arrested, if that's what it took to protect Occupy SF.
We were joined as well by hundreds of youth and community activists --
many of whom had come as a group from San Francisco State University, City
College, and the East Bay, to name a few places, to reinforce the defense
But this was not all: Before leaving City Hall after the meeting with
Mayor Lee, the union and community activists knocked on all the doors of the
S.F. Board of Supervisors members, urging them to get down asap to the
encampment to help prevent the raid. And not only did five of the Supervisors
show up, four remained at the encampment till dawn. Former Board of
Supervisors Aaron Peskin also joined the group.
Though the numbers dwindled a bit throughout the night, what was r
emarkable was that a majority of the union officers and members held firm till
dawn. Everyone knew that if we did not all stay firm till the early morning
commute, the raid would take place at 3 or 4 in the morning.
We now know that the raid had been planned for those early hours. But the
plan was foiled. This represents a first victory over the forces that have
been hell-bent on shutting down Occupy SF. But it is not a permanent
victory. Labor and community leaders and activists need to remain vigilant and
prepared to act again on short notice should they be needed to defend Occupy
Alan Benjamin is a member of the Executive Board of the San Francisco
Labor Council, AFL-CIO (as a delegate from OPEIU Local 3). He was among the
unionists who stood with Occupy SF to defend the encampment against the
planned police raid.