The PJ Tatler

OccupySF's failed theft of Catholic Archdiocese building: An insider's view

Photo courtesy of Larry in SF

Last Sunday OccupySF embarked on a long-planned action: To seize and occupy a building belonging to the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco and turn it into an anarchist commune that would serve as the Occupy movement’s local headquarters. The Fund47 blog was on the scene and filed this unique report with an insider’s view of how it all went down:

San Francisco Police Escorts Occupy to ‘Liberation’ of Archdiocese Property, Then Withdraws

Here’s OccupySF’s press release about the action, revealing their intention to squat in the building permanently:

This action on Sunday is not a temporary protest, but a permanent occupation intended to establish a social center. We will transform this vacant building into a productive and vibrant space, just as we did in the plaza occupation, and we wish others to take similar actions and more.

Wealth inequality is increasing, the environment is being destroyed, the police state and drug war are devastating our communities and social movements, while our foreign wars enrich the 1% at the expense of our troops and innocent civilians. In San Francisco alone, thousands sleep on the street while thousands of houses and apartments lay empty. From Chapel Hill to Seattle, from New York to Oakland, people are rising up to directly change the social and economic system by liberating vacant buildings and reclaiming them for the people.

We are taking this action to bring immediate relief and housing to homeless youth in our community, and to provide a space for assembling, sharing food and healing for all people.

(Left out of their pitiful, adolescent sloganeering is the unfortunate fact that the vast majority of homeless street people in San Francisco have severe psychological or drug-addiction problems and have resisted repeated attempts to house them; many are homeless by choice.)

Photo courtesy of Larry in SF

Housing is a right; free health care is a right; everything is a right in this gimme-gimme 21st century Obama world.

Photo courtesy of Larry in SF

Some of the protesters had shoulder bags glorifying Chairman Mao…

Photo courtesy of Larry in SF

…while others had shoulder bags glorifying President Obama.

Mao, Obama — it’s all good.

Photo courtesy of Larry in SF

Eventually the protesters arrived at their secret destination, a vacant building at 888 Turk Street owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, which the Occupiers immediately dubbed the “SF Commune.”

“Larry in SF,” the author of Fund47’s excellent photo essay, goes into great detail speculating as to why the San Francisco Police at first escorted the unpermitted march, facilitating their illegal blockage of street traffic, and then backed off and allowed the protesters to seize the unprotected building.

Since OccupySF did not publicly announce their destination ahead of time, it could be that they simply tricked the police and got inside the building before the cops knew what was happening. But the local rumor mill is speculating that the police stood down at the behest of the San Francisco City Council, who are on record as being actively hostile to the Catholic Church.

Who knows? To jump to the end of the story, and ruin the surprise: The SF Police evicted the Occupiers the following day, so even if the city government did allow or facilitate the property seizure, it was just a temporary and empty gesture.

The Occupiers handed out these flyers showing how they’d already been inside the building for days and had planned out the commune in detail. (Click on the image to see it full-size.)

The San Francisco Chronicle‘s article about the protest had an unintentionally hilarious quote from one of the Occupiers:

Marcher Julia Cheng, 25, of Chicago settled into a spot inside the building, setting up a sleeping bag and hanging a sign reading “Home Sweet Home.”

“We want to show that housing is unfair because people were lured into predatory loans,” she said. “This is like the Second French Revolution all over again.”

Ah, the lovely French Revolution. What’s next for Occupy, then: The Reign of Terror?

The back side of the flyer featured a detailed map of the planned commune (click on picture above to view), and also featured this example of jaw-dropping hubris and unconscious irony, telling people to respect and not damage Occupy’s property — property that they themselves had just stolen and damaged! Unmitigated gall.

A nice portrait of one of the hangers-on, even though her message is muddled, at best.

The Occupiers themselves produced the following video, showing the final moments of their one-day “permanent” headquarters, prior to eviction. Pay special attention to the dancing girls, and the embarrassing infantile economic theories of the commune leader:

The Chronicle story linked above describes the scene after the eviction:

Demonstrators had “stockpiled” bricks and cans of paint on the roof of the building, he said, and they blocked windows and doors with plywood and stacks of chairs.

After police broke through the main door, protesters fled deeper into the building, barricading doors and stairways along the way, Andraychak said. One man jumped from a second-floor window to avoid police, but was caught soon after, he said.

There were no injuries during the arrests, Andraychak said.

The interior of the building on Monday afternoon, after the protesters had been removed, was covered in spray-painted graffiti and posters and photographs from previous Occupy events. There were signs on the walls to designate sleeping areas, “media free zones” and smoking rooms.

Protesters left behind sleeping bags and backpacks, guitars and a tambourine. A half-eaten sandwich sat on a crate in one room, and in the kitchen were boxes full of fresh fruits and vegetables. In one large room on the second floor, a bowl of dog food sat next to an empty bottle of tequila.

“They had no intention of leaving,” Andraychak said.

Want the whole story in detail? View the full report on Fund47:

San Francisco Police Escorts Occupy to ‘Liberation’ of Archdiocese Property, Then Withdraws