Oakland business owners fear they won’t recover

Jill Tucker and Matthai Kuruvila
SF Chronicle, November 7, 2011

Kevin Best and Misty Rasche remember when they had waiting lists for a Friday reservation at their bistro in the historic Old Oakland business district.

That was in 2007, before the recession hit and a series of angry protests that would come to define downtown Oakland.

Most recently, business at their B Restaurant & Bar has been harmed further since Occupy Oakland tents went up at City Hall on Oct. 10. Best and Rasche worry that the collateral damage from the protest may be the final blow for their restaurant.

“If we go two more months like this,” Best said, “it’s a wrap.”

Their restaurant is five blocks from the encampment. Businesses closer have suffered more, and not only from a loss of customers. Windows have been broken, street fires have been set, and graffiti has become part of the landscape, block after block.

Best and Rasche, West Oakland residents, don’t want to leave.

But as downtown business owners, they have been on a never-ending roller-coaster ride through the recession and the impact of high city unemployment rates, a series of high-profile protests and the disruptive demonstrations, and now Occupy Oakland, with its two tear-gassed melees in a little more than a week.

Despite it all, what may hurt most is the damage to the area’s image.

Unfulfilled promise

For a downtown that held such promise just a decade ago, it’s been painful journey.

“We own this restaurant because we love Oakland,” Rasche said. “You want to believe in it so bad.”

Since January 2009, the city has had three protests over the fatal police shooting of a BART passenger and one about cuts to higher education. The latest protest has been going for 27 days, including Wednesday’s general strike, which turned violent in the late-night hours.

The damage done by a small element of Occupy Oakland could have long-lasting effects on a downtown already struggling to overcome a bad reputation for business.

“Many, many Oakland residents … feel that this is disrupting every effort this city has made to have economic development,” said Councilwoman Pat Kernighan. “This has set us back 15 years.”

In the week before Wednesday’s general strike, three businesses pulled out of downtown lease negotiations, including one with 100 employees and another needing 35,000 square feet of space, said Joe Haraburda, president and CEO of Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

At the same time, the tents and civil unrest have pushed some restaurant receipts down 50 to 60 percent, he said.

Mayor Jean Quan, who grew up around her family’s restaurant in Livermore, said such businesses run on a 5 percent profit margin and have a hard time absorbing even one lost day.

She said she knows of two restaurants downtown that are closing because of recent losses.

In addition, workers have lost wages as stores have closed for safety reasons or to show support for the marches.

Some companies that might have considered Oakland’s downtown, with its lower rents and convenient access to transportation, are looking elsewhere.

“People are afraid to come downtown,” said retail consultant Helen Bulwik, president of New Market Solutions. “How do you sell it at this point? What you cannot sell is safety and security.”

Vacant storefronts line Broadway, the main downtown artery, despite a comparatively healthy 15 percent commercial vacancy rate inside the tall office buildings.

The Men’s Wearhouse and Whole Foods, both damaged during last week’s strike, moved into the neighborhood in recent years, but Oakland remains an urban city without a significant retail presence downtown, Bulwik said.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

In the late 1990s, revitalization efforts that tried to bring back the downtown area included refurbishing the Fox Theatre and bringing 10,000 new residents into the neighborhood.

A vision shelved

Restaurants, retailers and business would follow, reasoned then-Mayor Jerry Brown, who spearheaded the drive.

In 2005, the city promoted the revitalization efforts, noting new restaurants, residents and $7.3 million in updated streetscape.

“New sidewalks, street tree plantings, pedestrian amenities, historic lighting, street furniture and sidewalk widening will encourage downtown patrons to stroll and explore our vibrant downtown,” a Meet Downtown Oakland fact sheet said.

On paper, it looked like the city was on the cusp of a major renaissance, with Gap, Starbucks and other national retail chains buying into the plan.

Gap’s 2001 opening at the corner of 14th Street and Broadway offered a major vote of confidence in downtown Oakland, Brown said at the time.

Five years later, Gap was gone.

About the same time, the recession hit the new downtown residential projects hard, leaving some condominium developments more than a third empty, while others were pulled off the market entirely to wait out the economy.

With Brown’s “if you build it they will come” concept on hold, there is no strong retail base, especially downtown, to attract Oakland shoppers, who spend $3 billion outside the city every year, Bulwik said.

What Oakland needs is a boom of retail along upper Broadway – some 3 million square feet of space – which could bring the lost business back into the local economy, Bulwik said. That could be the game changer Oakland needs, she said. But that’s for another day.

To be sure, bright spots exist in other parts of Oakland, with the Temescal and Rockridge districts thriving.

In 2011, an estimated 1,200 jobs were added to the downtown and Lake Merritt communities, said Marco Li Mandri, consultant to the Downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt/Uptown District associations.

“Oakland has got this steady march forward,” he said, adding that it’s outsiders who are bringing it down.

“They believe the venue for demonstrations against the state in general is 14th and Broadway,” he said.

Choice of target questioned

Indeed, with only one Fortune 500 company and about a 16 percent unemployment rate, many residents wonder why their city is the target of an Occupy movement directed at the economic elite.

Why aren’t the protesters in San Ramon, where Chevron just announced a near-record profit of $7.83 billion, asked Bill Jackman, an independent statistician and programmer.

“Why pick on the city that’s down?” he said.

Oakland resident Jerry Bloodsaw called it a failure of leadership to stand tall against the tent encampment and the outsiders who make the city look bad.

“Oakland still is a good city,” the finance worker said during his lunch break downtown Thursday. “That fear factor, we need to get rid of it.”

Jean Quan angers Occupy camp’s supporters, rivals

Matthai Kuruvila and Justin Berton
SF Chronicle – November 5, 2011

Mayor Jean Quan told residents and others gathered at a raucous City Council meeting this week that the Occupy Oakland encampment at City Hall is damaging the city.

Hundreds of jobs are being lost, police are being diverted from violent parts of town, some businesses are closing, and others are choosing not to locate in downtown Oakland at all, she said at Thursday’s special City Council meeting.

Yet at the same meeting, three of Quan’s staunchest supporters urged the council to support the Occupy Oakland encampment. One of them, Don Link, told The Chronicle that they spoke at the meeting on behalf of a group that emerged from Quan’s mayoral campaign and is led by Quan’s husband, Floyd Huen.

Quan’s actions during the past two weeks have left both supporters and opponents of the Occupy Oakland camp bewildered and frustrated.

Her mixed messages, whether she delivers them herself or through others, indicate that she is unwilling to make a decision, Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente said.

“Honestly, I think her nature cannot allow her to make a decision. The city is really suffering the consequences of that,” said De La Fuente, who has emerged as the mayor’s most vocal critic on the council since she took office.

After first supporting the camp, forcing it to close and then allowing it to spring back up, Quan now appears to be leaning toward wanting the camp evicted again.

Residents, police angry

Quan has been criticized for flip-flopping on Occupy by business owners, residents and the Oakland police union, which issued an open letter to residents Tuesday saying police were confused and did not know how to respond to protesters because of the mayor’s mixed signals.

At Thursday’s council meeting, Khalid Shakur, 43, who has camped since the first day, said to Quan, “Mayor Quan, I hold you personally responsible” for the poor relationship that has developed between the city and the camp.

The criticism comes from the other side as well.

Oakland resident Phillip Johnson, who wants the camp removed, said, “Somebody has to stand up for this city. Ms. Quan, you’re a good person, but the business community doesn’t like this.”

Meanwhile, Quan has continued trying to work with the campers in Frank Ogawa Plaza outside City Hall, but many are ignoring her and her administration’s requests for cooperation.

The city’s inability to get protesters to cooperate was apparent again Friday when campers who gathered for a morning meeting were met by Arturo Sanchez, assistant to the city administrator. Sanchez reiterated the city’s concerns over a propane tank in the camp’s food tent and the larger structures that have arisen, such as the medic tent, which is staffed by nurses twice a week.

Sanchez told the group that at some point, “those structures will have to come down,” but did not specify when. Sanchez’s warning was not well received.

“As much as you say you respect our position, please respect ours,” said a camper named Dennis, 39, who had just moved from the Occupy Santa Cruz encampment. “No structure will come down without a general assembly vote.”

Fire inspectors who walked through the kitchen Friday afternoon again asked campers to remove the propane tank, which was covered in a black garbage bag.

‘This is going to end up bad’

De La Fuente expressed grave concerns about what he said is Quan’s inability to take a stand.

“This is going to end up bad,” he warned. “If something happens and that encampment blows up because they have propane tanks, everybody is going to say, ‘Wow.’ Then it’s going to be too late.”

Let Harry Bridges occupy his plaza eternally

Editorial
SF Chronicle, November 5, 2011

Model of the 12-foot-tall statue of Harry Bridges to be erected on the Embarcadero in front of the Ferry Building.<br />
Credit: Bruce Wolfe Photo: Bruce Wolf / SF

Model of the 12-foot-tall statue of Harry Bridges to be erected on the Embarcadero in front of the Ferry Building. Credit: Bruce Wolfe Photo: Bruce Wolf / SF

It would have been unthinkable just a few years ago: Harry Bridges, San Francisco’s firebrand union leader and alleged Communist rabble-rouser, hated and feared by the city’s establishment, is about to become a mainstream icon.

Australian-born Alfred Bryant Renton Bridges was the controversial and charismatic head of the West Coast longshoreman’s unions during the turbulent ’30s. He was the militant leader of numerous strikes and was prosecuted several times by the U.S. government, which tried repeatedly to deport him.

Now he is about to be immortalized in bronze in front of the Ferry Building. It’s about time.

Bridges led the violent West Coast maritime strike of 1934 that shut down the port of San Francisco for 83 days. Amid the uproar, police shot and killed two union members, sparking a four-day general strike by most labor groups and many small businesses in the city and in Oakland. For years afterward, Bridges staged waterfront walkouts almost annually.

A hero among the union rank-and-file, he was vilified by the business community and by most California newspapers. Opponents insisted he was a member of the American Communist Party, but nobody ever proved it. In 1970, when he was appointed to the Port Commission, a Chronicle editorial recalled that he had once been considered a “flaming agitator.”

Fast forward to today: Bridges now is a venerated San Francisco figure. When he died in 1990, Mayor Art Agnos ordered city flags to fly at half-staff. In 1999, the city Art Commission christened a little park between lanes on the Embarcadero as Harry Bridges Plaza. And last week, the Port Commission unanimously approved the installation of a 12-foot bronze statue of Bridges atop a pedestal of California granite in the middle of the plaza.

One can argue over the methods and philosophies of the West Coast labor movement of the mid-20th century, but nobody can question the role Harry Bridges played in making San Francisco a strong union town and in defending the rights of workers.

“No other man’s jousts with the federal government … have done more to broaden and strengthen the Constitutional rights of immigrants, political dissenters and racial minorities,” wrote Grif Fariello, chairman of the private committee that proposed the statue. Now that it has the city’s blessing, the group is trying to raise around $750,000 for construction and maintenance. It hopes to erect the monument by 2013.

Widely considered irascible but incorruptible, Bridges loomed large on the city’s waterfront for decades. It seems fitting to recognize his place in history in a year when protests over economic inequality have sprung up all over the country, notably in Oakland and just across the street from Harry Bridges Plaza.

Occupy Oakland protester says police beat him

Erin Allday, SF Chronicle
November 4, 2011

OAKLAND — A man who says he is an armed forces veteran was in the intensive care unit of Highland Hospital after suffering serious injuries that he said were caused by a confrontation with police during this week’s Occupy Oakland protests.

Kayvan Sabeghi, 32, was among the 103 people arrested early Thursday after a day of peaceful protests turned violent. He was arrested for remaining at the scene of a riot and resisting arrest, police said.

Sabeghi told members of Iraq Veterans Against the War that he was beaten with nightsticks on his hands, shoulders, ribs and back by police or Alameda County sheriff’s deputies. He suffered internal injuries, including a lacerated spleen, he told the group.

Emily Yates, a member of the group, said Sabeghi was “awake and alert” when she visited him at the hospital Friday. Sabeghi identified himself as a veteran, Yates said, although he is not affiliated with Iraq Veterans Against the War. It was unclear whether he had fought overseas.

In a statement, the veterans group said, “We stand by our fellow veterans and denounce the police brutality that our brothers in arms endured. We stand by to support them in any way possible.”

Oakland police and sheriff’s officials said they are investigating the allegations.

On Oct. 25, Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen suffered a head injury, apparently from being hit by a projectile fired from police lines. As of Friday, he remained at Highland Hospital but he was expected to make a full recovery.

 

An Opportunity to Occupy

Occupy movement brings new vigor to student protests
City on a Hill Press
November 3, 2011

Illustration by Jamie Morton.

Nov. 15-17 the UC Board of Regents will hold a meeting to discuss the financial future of the UC system. The Occupy Education event will be held on Nov. 16 at UCSF Mission Bay, the same location as the regents’ meeting.

Protests at regents’ meetings have become common-place. Over the years, as multiple fee increases have been approved, it has become difficult for UC students to feel heard and not despair that they are members of a dying system. Just last year, the regents voted on an 8 percent increase in student fees, and this coming meeting will likely see even higher fees.

But this time around, we are presented with an opportunity. We are presented with the support of Occupy entities of local Bay Area colleges, Occupy Education and the Occupy movement as a whole. And their numbers are large.

We are presented with the opportunity to turn out in droves and bring the kind of state and national media coverage this issue deserves. With increased media coverage comes increased attention from California state voters who, at the end of the day, have massive amounts of control over the UC budget based on what legislators they vote for.

We should look to UC Berkeley, where protesters plan to hold a two-day event on Nov. 9–10. The protest will raise awareness of potential fee hikes, which will be determined during the regents’ November meeting.

According to the Occupy Education website: “We call on all the 99 percent, on all the Occupy general assemblies and camps throughout Northern California, on all student, labor, and community organizations, to come together in a massive display of non-violent civil disobedience to prevent the UC regents meeting from taking place, to send the strongest message that we will not accept any fee hikes, cuts, or concessions in any level of public education.”

By virtue of being UC students, we are 100 percent part of the 99 percent, and we should be mobilizing 100 percent for the change we need to take place.

Third and fourth-year students who sigh under their breath, “Thank god I’m getting out” and look the other way, this applies to you. You may be getting out of the UC system, but you are only getting into the poor job market.

First-year students, do not be defeated into thinking this is the way it must be — just because you don’t know anything else does not mean you cannot demand better.

We need to be our own advocates. We need to show up and speak up, and this is a grand opportunity.

So carpool, public transit, Zipcar — San Francisco isn’t that far away. On Nov. 16, meet up at 7 a.m. at the UCSF Mission Bay campus, 1675 Owens St., San Francisco, Calif. and Occupy the future of the UC.

From the Editor

Good Times – Tuesday, 01 November 2011 – Greg Archer

greg_archerPlus Letters to the Editor
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a great deal happening locally these days. For starters, Occupy Santa Cruz has been generating interest for weeks. Of course, after the recent riots at an Occupy Oakland rally, it’s hard not to step back and take a broader look at the Occupy Wall Street movement that has  swept the nation. (In an odd bit of timing, the new futuristic film In Time—not the best, but not bad—mirrors what’s happening in the country right now and addresses topics such as redistributing the wealth. Sound off on the matter with us online at goodtimessantacruz.com. You’ll find a number of blogs there about the local movement. In the meantime, turn to News this week (page 8), where the matter is addressed more thoroughly.

From the protests, we move on to another local matter capturing a great deal of attention—the proposal to re-route Pacific Avenue in Downtown Santa Cruz into a two-way street. And just in time for the holidays. This week, Executive Director of the Downtown Association, Chip, writes about the matter and brings up some provocative  points that suggest the idea is not a bad one at all. Economically, could it change things for the better? The matter heads to City Council on Tuesday Nov. 8. Send us your thoughts at letters@gtweekly.com.

That’s enough to make you take pause and think. But maybe it’s best to do that inside, which is what Kim Luke, the author of this week’s cover story, might suggest. Behold: the ultimate guide to doing things inside—told in a way only the candid Ms. Luke could tell. Enjoy the levity.

One last note: The Nexties 2012 is fast approaching. Be sure to visit santacruznext.com to learn about this annual awards ceremony, which honors locals doing amazing things. Nominee deadline is Nov. 10.

Thanks for reading. Have a fun, safe and prosperous week …

 

Greg Archer | Editor-in-Chief

Occupy Santa Cruz camp a tale of two tent cities

By JASON HOPPIN
Santa Cruz Sentinel -11/01/2011

 

A couple of Occupy Santa Cruz campers make a water run to supply certain… (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ – Dreamcatcher, which is how everyone knows him, says his job is to keep the peace, counting among his credentials 11 years in prison, five bullet holes and two strikes toward a life sentence in state prison.

Verbose and quick with a smile, Dreamcatcher sleeps in a tent by a large teepee just off Water Street in San Lorenzo Park, the teepee serving both as a community gathering space and a fault line in the burgeoning Occupy Santa Cruz movement, a growing part of the international Occupy Wall Street protests.

While the Sentinel has a policy against using pseudonyms, in this case, many of the people participating refuse to give their legal names.

In place for about a month, an encampment has grown to number scores of tents, an increasing number of them occupied by homeless people. While the camp has grown, people like Dreamcatcher have worked to maintain order and keep the movement going forward, even as it draws elements from last year’s controversial camping ban protest – though it so far has avoided the same fate.

“It’s been a very dynamic, delicate process,” Dreamcatcher said, explaining that he knows many protesters personally and steers them from trouble before it begins. “I know everyone here by name. That is my gift.”

Filled with activists fed up with the direction of the country and sustained by donations of food and money (and frequent honks from passing motorists), the Occupy Santa Cruz movement is undoubtedly growing. During daily general assembly meetings, sometimes hundreds show up to help guide the effort.

Set up at the main county courthouse, it exhibits an impressive level of discipline, deploying a designated cook, routine trash pickups and periodic movement of tents to try to keep the park’s grass alive. Protesters say local unions have been supportive, and professionally produced signs are on display. Occupy Santa Cruz even has its own T-shirts.

And protesters say they have no intention

Although James Smyth has a home in Bonny Doon and works as a landscaper, he spends some nights in the Occupy Santa Cruz camp working with other campers to change the system he says is obviously failing. (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)

of leaving anytime soon.”Indefinitely,” said James Smyth, a 26-year-old landscaper who lives in Bonny Doon but has spent several nights along the bank of the San Lorenzo River. “Until the wealthiest 1 percent is willing to change the way they conduct themselves in society, the other 99 percent will not be deterred from moving forward in this occupation.”

DIFFERENT TRACK

Locally, the official response to the camp has been very different from responses in other cities, where a handful of crackdowns have led to a backlash that has seem to galvanize the Occupy Wall Street movement. In Oakland, a 24-year-old ex-Marine was seriously wounded when police tried to sweep an encampment from Frank Ogawa Plaza.

“Whatever the

Nearly 100 tents divided into well-defined political sections are sprawled across the benchlands of San Lorenzo Park making up the all-encompassing Occupy Santa Cruz protest camp. (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)

big cities are doing, Santa Cruz wants to do the opposite, because they figure that’s going to be the right thing to do. Because the more you try to fight dissension, the more dissension you’ll breed,” said John Crying Rain, one of the campers.There has been no sign city and county officials intend to break up the camp. County Public Health Director Bob Kennedy said there have been no complaints, making it very different from last year’s months-long camping ban protest, when authorities eventually made the controversial decision to break up a camp also located at the county courthouse.

“This is a totally different group,” Kennedy said.

Several protesters think they are being protected this time around by local elected

While the camp rules are posted for all to see, still the aroma of marijuana wafted Tuesday morning throughout the camp sprawled across the benchlands of San Lorenzo Park. (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)

leaders, particularly within the city of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz police spokesman Zach Friend said it was the department that reached out to City Hall, and acknowledged that the city’s approach differs from other locales.”It was important to us to have city management and other elected officials understand what our operational philosophy would be,” Friend said. “From Day One, it’s been important to take a balanced approach. We’ve seen what hasn’t worked in others cities, and we’ve always attempted to have some lines of communication with (protesters).”

Besides the now-infamous Oakland sweep, which has placed Mayor Jean Quan’s administration under a microscope, other crackdowns on Occupy camps have led to a backlash, and pose

A pedestrian hurries past elements of the Occupy Santa Cruz camp Tuesday. The camp has spilled out onto Water Street. (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)

a politically thorny situation for elected officials.In Nashville, Gov. Bill Haslam faced tough questions after a sweep there led the arrests of two reporters covering the protest. A federal judge later issued a temporary restraining order protecting the camp from being disbanded.

More crackdowns, including one at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, which has been the base of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and another in San Francisco, were called off at the last minute.

STAYING PUT

That doesn’t mean police here aren’t paying attention. They make daily visits, occasionally issuing tickets for open flames or smoking in the park. But so far, no camping tickets have been issued.

Activist lawyer Ed Frey, who has spent time in County Jail for previous camping citations, has been assisting the movement, doing everything from helping to draft a mission statement to renting a portable toilet.

“We’re not leaving,” Frey said. “This is it. We’ve had too much dysfunction and suffering. Needless suffering.”

So far, the separate peace between the homeless portion of the encampment and the core of activist Occupy Santa Cruz protesters seems to be working.

“We pretty much police our own, you know?” said a man who gave his name as Dread-I, part of the homeless part of the camp. “We police ourselves so the police don’t have to come down and do nothing. … We’ve all come together as one.”

When tensions do emerge between the two sides, the group works to deal with them internally. It seems part of a code, a determination by protesters to manage their own affairs and keep their mission focused on larger issues of economic disparities and a political system they say favors the rich and powerful.

“We know the world is watching,” said 26-year-old Isaac Collins, on hiatus from a job harvesting grapes to become a part of the movement. Collins has a home and an associate’s degree in communications from Cabrillo College, but has been staying at the encampment.

But some clear lines do develop when it comes to allocating scarce resources – namely, dinner.

Under a makeshift tent fashioned from blue tarps sits shelves lines with canned goods. A camp cook feeds 50 to 60 people at dinner, but she said the food is for activists and homeless people who help with the movement – not simply a free meal for anyone who wants it.

Campers says the food there is good, and not just when local businesses such as Domino’s or Pizza My Heart drop off donations.

“She’s cooked some bomb food,” said protester Michael Hawk.

Protesters remain optimistic that the movement will lead to permanent change. And they have no intention of going anywhere soon, saying their actions are protected by the First Amendment.

“Even if you put an Occupy Santa Cruz sign on your tent at Pogonip, they won’t (evict you), because that sign is saying, ‘Look, I’m behind this movement. It’s a Free Speech movement,’” said Smyth, the landscaper.

But Friend said the police department would like to know what the camp’s exit plan might be.

“We can all agree that they can’t permanently stay in this location,” he said.

Eye on the Occupiers

Good Times Weekly – Tuesday, 01 November 2011 – April M. Short

news2How does Occupy Santa Cruz fit into the global movement for democracy?

Ed Frey, an attorney in Santa Cruz, has been unhappy with the political process and decisions of policymakers in the United States for decades—particularly the lack of a voice given to everyday people. He is not alone. On Sept. 17, the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City’s financial district erupted, and Frey found a vehicle for his cause. He participated on day one of the movement in San Francisco’s branch-off protest, Occupy San Francisco. When Occupy Santa Cruz (OSC) developed, Frey immediately joined the effort.

“I do not think it’s a policy change—no bill or piece of legislation—that we need,” says Frey. “We need a process change.” Frey thinks people should demand full access to facts, and that officeholders should be directly accountable to the people they represent.

On the Water Street curb, at the OSC outpost, a man and woman brandish poster messages of “Wake Up, Stand Up, Speak Up” and “Be the Change.” Passing cars honk and wave in solidarity. Behind them, on the steps of the Superior Courthouse, is a crowd of about 50. Some circle up on the grass for a nonviolence training workshop. Others paint signs and enjoy quiet conversation.

This scene is typical of the OSC movement, whose participants span diverse facets of the Santa Cruz population. The individuals present at the courthouse vary from hour to hour, day to day, but the organization gathers 24/7. Burgeoned in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street protest, as well as hundreds of worldwide branch-off “occupations” that continue to spring up, the local movement seeks to confront the effects of wealth disparities present in society by way of direct democratic conversation and nonviolent action.

The occupy movement points out that in the United States today, one percent of the people hold more than one-fourth of the nation’s income and 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. Occupiers hereby coined themselves the nickname ”the 99 percenters.”

news2-2“I am not happy about the fact that there’s so much financial inequality right now, and that that plays out in a stronger corporate influence of politics,” says Yasmeine Mabrook, a woman in her 20s who sits on the courthouse steps awaiting the General Assembly meeting that OSC holds nightly. “The only way to fight back is to get people involved and working towards change.”

In a recent CBS/New York Times poll, 43 percent of Americans agreed with the views of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.

Reasons to support “Occupy” vary between individuals, though most stem from financial inequality. Critics of the occupy movement chastise occupiers for their lack of particular goals and call their ideology amorphous.

Mabrook says this lack of particulars makes the movement all-inclusive. “I think it’s important, actually, not to have specific goals,” she says. “There are so many problems that we can’t solve them with one solution. … The issue is structural … it starts as economic but then when you really look at it, it’s about the environment, it’s about racism, sexism. That’s all built into our economic system.”

Though cities across the nation have seen arrests of occupiers and physical conflict with police, there have been none so far in Santa Cruz. However, local critics of the occupation have voiced concern over the environment of San Lorenzo Park, where the occupiers have set up tents to sleep overnight.

The Santa Cruz Police Department says it supports the right for OSC to exist as long as it continues in a respectful manner.

“We’re taking a more balanced approach to this,” says SCPD spokesperson Zach Friend. “We encourage the organization to maintain open communication, respect public safety, and respect the environment, meaning trash and waste management.”

Craig Metz, 44, is a local marriage and family therapist. He feels that this movement may be the one chance he has seen in his lifetime to enact considerable positive change in the world. “Whether it goes forward or not is dependent upon people’s involvement,” says Metz, who notes he is not an organizer of OSC, but participates. “I really believe in democracy and I think it’s possible for us to have further participation in the systems that govern us. … With the financial collapse that started in ’07, the result has been an upward distribution of wealth.”

Metz points particularly to the bailout of the national banks, which he says did little to benefit everyday people.

In fact, one of the biggest grievances occupiers and their supporters have is with the banks system. The occupy movement is a large advocate of Bank Transfer Day (BTD), which encourages people to transfer their money from corporate banks, like Bank of America or Chase, to a local bank or credit union on Saturday, Nov. 5.

According to BTD’s Facebook page, it is organized separate from the occupy movement, but acknowledges the enthusiastic support from occupiers.

For local participant Francis Andrade, the occupy movement has already met at least one of its aims—to deter apathy.

“[The movement] is largely economic but I think it’s really about getting people involved in the decisions that affect their lives,” he says. “This is kind of what the goal is—getting people political.”  Photo: Jesse Clark