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Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Occupy movement protested outside the San Francisco home of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf yesterday, in an attempt to stop bank foreclosures on people who can’t make their mortgage payments. The protesters held up oversize Stumpf cutouts, identifying him as a “Robber Banker.” Four burly men, presumably private security guards, stood in the doorway of the upscale apartment building where Stumpf lives, keeping the protesters out on the sidewalk.

The building is in a picturesque spot on San Francisco’s Russian Hill, overlooking Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz. Nice!

The protest had a gimmick: The protesters were there to “foreclose” on Stumpf himself, for the crime of being an evil robber banker.

(Photo courtesy of Larry in SF.)
The reverse-foreclosure was actually the brainchild of Occupy Bernal Heights, a small neighborhood Occupy group, in conjunction with the “OccupySF Housing Council.” After some speechifying by Bernal Heights residents who can’t repay their mortgages because they were foolish enough to try to buy or refinance homes they couldn’t afford…

…they then tried to serve the mock foreclosure notice on Stumpf. This video records the glorious moment.

Needless to say, the four burly guys stood there unmoved, stoic.

The street theater was rather ill-conceived, or at least ill-staged, because only a few people in the very front could even see what was going on; the rest of the 99% could only squint at the action from a distance.

In this video, an “archbishop” from the John Coltrane African Orthodox Church demands that Stumpf stop “stumpfing on the poor.”

Afterwards, they also held an auction of Stumpf’s home; again, the street theater was not particularly audible, but from what I could tell, the winning bid was “one peanut.”

“Larry in SF” has more details about the purported “victims” of Wells Fargo. In each case, the foreclosure seems perfectly justified: One homeowner neglected to have fire insurance on his home (who even does that?), so when it caught fire and nearly burned down, he couldn’t repay the huge loan he took out to make the expensive repairs. Another homeowner used her house like an unlimited credit card, running up a gigantic “equity line loan” which she could not repay. And another homeowner overextended on housing speculation in a downward-trending market, eventually going “underwater” on her mortgages.

Rather than upending the capitalist system, as Occupy recommends, here’s a simpler solution to this foreclosure problem: Always have home insurance; don’t treat your house’s equity like a credit card; don’t engage in real estate speculation when you have no clue what you’re doing. Deal? Deal.

About 100 Occupiers showed up for the “direct action.” While Occupy Wall Street last year was at first a bit vague as to its main message, this group at least has now focused in on a specific complaint: foreclosures.

One Occupier positioned herself in front of the spectacular view, to get her message of resentment and class-envy into every tourist snapshot.

One of the protesters handed out foreclosure notices on Wells Fargo itself, rather than John Stumpf personally.

But that went against the Alinskyite theme of the event, which was to ‚ÄúPick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it,” according to Alinsky’s revolutionary handbook Rules for Radicals. In this case, instead of protesting against a faceless bank, they “personalize” the concept by attacking an individual person, even though he himself did not invent the concept of mortgage loans, nor is he responsible for the government’s decision to bail out banks, nor does he make regulatory laws, nor does he have any power to change them. But Alinsky’s theory demands that a scapegoat be villainized, and so Occupy followed his playbook.

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Media pundits have often tried to point out the similarities between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement, in a futile attempt to get the two groups to merge. Unfortunately, the differences were too great, and we have yet to see the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street protesting against the same thing side-by-side at the same protest.

That is, until now.

The unthinkable finally happened last night in San Francisco: the Tea Party shared a protest with the Occupiers, both groups angry with the same person.

And who was this unifier, the only man who can bridge the divide and bring together all sides of the political spectrum? Why, President Obama, of course.

He ping-ponged across San Francisco on Thursday, February 16, hosting a series of high-end fundraisers that netted him somewhere near $4 million, by some estimates. I tailed him all day, and will present photos from each of his stops. But we’ll start with what was in fact the final event, on Nob Hill at the Masonic Auditorium, because that’s where all the protesters congregated. Photos from the day’s earlier events are found in the second half of the report, below.

Protest Outside the Obama Fundraiser, Masonic Auditorium, San Francisco

Here it is: proof! All three kinds of protesters, together at last. On the left (appropriately), an Occupier angry at Obama for not being sufficiently left-wing, and promising not to vote for Obama unless he stops enforcing federal drug laws. And on the right, a Tea Partier who thinks Obama is too left-wing. And in the middle, a rare find at such events, an Obama supporter who thinks he’s “just right.”

Now everybody link arms and sing along with me: “Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya….

Sadly, however, it was not to be. For although the Tea Party and the Occupiers were both at the same event protesting against Obama, this was no lovefest. Mutual distrust and disdain still divided the two camps, who also for the most part kept to opposite ends of the police-designated protest zone. Here we can see the Occupy end of the zone, with a wall of police keeping them away from the long line of Obama donors filing into the Masonic Auditorium across the street.

Everybody lived up to expectations. The Occupiers were, well, Occupiers, as you can see from this sign.

And the local Tea Party was also out in force for the first time in at least a year.

(Photo courtesy of Larry in SF.)
I had arrived at the protest after dark, having spent the earlier part of the day following Obama around to other fundraisers. But fellow citizen photojournalist “Larry in SF” was there when the protest first started in the afternoon, and snapped several photos that captured the extent and enthusiasm of the Tea Party crowd. (Unofficial estimates from various people I talked to: About 200 Tea Partiers, and 150 Occupiers.)

(Photo courtesy of Larry in SF.)
Many of the Tea Partiers wore giant foam “Nobama” fingers, which they waved in unison for a particularly photogenic effect.

(Photo courtesy of Larry in SF.)
Local Tea Party doyenne Sally Zelikovsky led the finger-wagging cheers. The idea came from this article in the SFWeekly, which said that after Jan Brewer wagged her finger in Obama’s face last month, “Obama Coming to San Francisco, Where Nobody Will Wag Their Fingers in His Face.”

(Hungry for more? “Larry in SF” has plenty more photos from the daytime protest posted on his blog.)

The Occupiers had their own chants as well. This video from later in the evening records two of them. The first one:

“The system has got to die, hella hella Occupy!”

The second Occupy chant reveals that there was no love lost between the two protest groups:

“Hey Tea Party, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side.”

The Occupiers this time around seemed unified around a single theme, one of the few policy areas where Obama hasn’t even tried to mollify his base: legalizing marijuana. Most of the Occupy protesters had pot-themed signs. As for the Occupier in the middle with the “Teach” sign: That’s what I’m worried about!

And they weren’t just carrying signs. Seemingly half the Occupiers were openly smoking marijuana at the protest, like this guy who kept bogarting his joint. But since they most likely all had their fraudulently obtained “medical marijuana” cards, the cops just let them get away with it.

One of the people on the Tea Party side emailed me after the protest with this first-hand account:

“Many of us actually got sick from the dope smoke…yeah, wimpy TPers…but I’m serious, they were blowing it over at us on purpose. At one point I mentioned to the young smokers, “Hey, I thought you guys were all about clean air? Your killing my carbon footprint.” BTW, w/ all of the medical cannabis signs, I didn’t see too many people who looked sickly. Mostly young and healthy OWS types.

Let’s take a look at two protesters who fulfilled everyone’s assumptions:

The typical Occupier.

The typical Tea Partier.

Now let’s look at two signs that fulfilled everyone’s assumptions:

Typical Occupy sign with way too many words. (“California could generate thousands of jobs and trillions of dollars through a multitude of green industrie!!!“)

(Photo courtesy of Larry in SF.)
Typical Tea Party sign with way too many words.(“Take your Marxism and shove it!!!“)

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