Occupy San Diego: Small, Struggling, Committed

While Occupy Oakland has the support of a liberal community and national outrage on its side, and Occupy Los Angeles is basking in the shade at City Hall, Occupy San Diego is small and struggling against the conservative citizenry and lack of community support. Last week, in the wake of Oakland’s violent riots, the San Diego police and sheriffs broke up Occupy San Diego and arrested 53 people.

Today I drove over five hours round trip to visit Occupy San Diego which is still at Civic Center Plaza though the protestors are not allowed to have tents, sleeping bags, or coolers on the public property of the Plaza, as the police are enforcing San Diego’s no sleeping in public rule. The crowd of under 100, including union members who had brought lunches for the Occupiers, stood between the towering Bank of America and Wells Fargo buildings a block from the Civic Center then marched back to Civic Center where several people, including veterans cut up their bank ATM and credit cards in front of the assembled cameras and the small but cheering crowd–and a lot of police who seemed relaxed but definitely not inclined to join the 99%

Around the corner, another fifty or so people lounged on sleeping bags, sitting and talking, with cardboard signs and computers. Some are homeless, some are hipsters. They are all Occupying.

The police tell us to move and cash us out, but we come back

one dreadlocked post-teen girl told me.

Amir and Chase, two of the organizers, spoke with me explaining they have maybe 50 people who Occupy regularly. There is at this point little chance of an organized general strike in support of Oakland. The police are unhappy with Occupy still being in place and now nightly lock one of the entrances to the Plaza, while the other entrances have been narrowed or blocked all together with waterfilled barriers. Oddly one reason the police wanted Occupiers moved was that the fire marshal allegedly claimed that the Occupiers and their tents prevented safe egress from the surrounding buildings in case of fire. Yet the police barricades have impeded the exit and entrance of pedestrians.

The San Diego Occupy folks want to grow the Occupation, to attract more attention to the reasons behind the Occupy Movement and how it affects those in San Diego and the surrounding suburbs. But San Diego is a very conservative area and the outlying areas, Vista, Los Olivos, Del Mar and North County even more so. I remember my dad in the 1990s campaigning with the only other five Democrats–one of whom was his wife, my awesome stepmom–in his North County neighborhood to keep creationists off the local public school board. It hasn’t gotten much better in this century!

San Diego needs support, feet on the ground, more bodies showing up. A recent arrival, a chef just laid off from the University of San Diego had to give up his apartment in order to be able to live on his unemployment, and is spending his days at Occupy. Others, like Chase, have jobs yet manage to spend all their free time at Occupy. A nurse I spoke with has been down almost every night. Union support has been visible and welcome, and hopefully more seniors, church groups and other organizations and individuals will show up. But not having a permanent overnight spot, and lacking even begrudging support from the city council and mayor has definitely put a crimp in this Occupy.

But at least they have 24-hour access to toilets.

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