Walking Tour of San Francisco Protests: Political tourism in the Age of Obama
On any given day in San Francisco, a dozen or more political events -- rallies, teach-ins, protests, lectures, conferences, demonstrations, performances and more -- are happening all over the city. Most out-of-town visitors have heard of San Francisco's legendary political activism, but they don't know where to go to witness it in person. The problem for tourists is that the city's political scene is a moving target -- events' locations change from day to day, and unless you have an insider's knowledge of where each upcoming event is likely to occur, it's entirely possible to spend your vacation in San Francisco without scoring any souvenir snapshots of West Coast political activism with which to impress your friends back home.
That is -- until now.
Zomguide is a revolutionary new service for globetrotters visiting San Francisco and hoping to soak up the real local color. Whether you're from Tokyo, Peoria or Sausalito, Zomguide will provide your own personal tour guide for the day, leading you and a small group on an exciting walking tour from protest to sit-in to workshop to riot. Each day's itinerary is unique! No two tours are the same, since every day has a fresh array of political outbursts. Our researchers track down the most interesting events, and the final route is only revealed hours before each tour begins.
Best of all: The first tour is free!
To introduce our new service, Zomguide presents here a recreation of our April 15, 2010 afternoon tour, complete with detailed pictures from throughout the itinerary, as well as a transcription of the guide's narration. Come along and see what political tourism in the Age of Obama is really like!
Our April 15 afternoon tour made four stops:
✦ 12:00pm 1. Rally Against Carbon Trading
✦ 1:00pm 2. SEIU Immigration Amnesty Protest
✦ 1:30pm 3. "Block That Tea Party" meeting
✦ 4:00pm 4. San Francisco Tax Day Tea Party
Here's the daily itinerary map handed out to each tour participant:
There was also a separate morning tour and even an evening tour on April 15, visiting other parts of the city. Future tours will visit a completely different array of events -- each day brings a fresh agenda, a new crop of unexpected political moments. (The upcoming itinerary for Saturday, April 20, for example, can be found at the bottom of this page.)
Ready to start? Let's go!
1. Rally Against Carbon Trading -- 12:00pm, Marriott Marquis Hotel, 55 Fourth Street
Today's Rally Against Carbon Trading is an interesting demonstration organized by Mobilization for Climate Justice to protest a "carbon trading" conference called "Navigating the American Carbon World" being held in the Marriott. Wait a minute, you might be saying, I'm confused. One global warming alarmist group is protesting against a different global warming alarmist group? That's right. And in this case, I actually agree with the protesters -- though not exactly for the same reasons they imagine.
The protest Web site linked above explains Mobilization for Climate Justice's position:
"We'll be outside the 'Navigating the American Carbon World' conference in San Francisco -- one of the nation's largest carbon market conferences -- to expose the injustice and ineffectiveness of schemes that reward polluters and allow rich countries to evade the real responsibility of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This conference will be attended by bankers, oil executives, financial speculators and big enviro groups. Join us to say NO TO FALSE CLIMATE SOLUTIONS! NO TO RIP-OFFSETS! NO THE CARBON TRADING SCAM! WE NEED REAL CARBON REDUCTIONS & CLIMATE JUSTICE NOW!"
Hmmmmm...OK. So what we have here are radical "green" activists legitimately denouncing the insane corporate pollution dance and money-shuffling shell game that is the patently absurd notion called "carbon trading," championed famously by Al Gore and Barack Obama.
Quoting the rally Web site again:
"Corporations and rich developed nations are pushing for policies that would allow them to "reduce" emissions by purchasing carbon "credits." Unfortunately, carbon credits can be created through offset projects which supposedly reduce emissions in developing countries so that the companies or people purchasing the offsets don't have to do anything to reduce emissions themselves. The problem is that these projects are frequently hard to monitor and fail to deliver the emissions reductions that they promise. Offsets essentially allow rich countries and corporations to purchase indulgences to keep polluting."
Exactly! So why do so many half-baked environmentalists support Obama, who advocates "trading" carbon "credits," even though it has become nothing but a way for pseudo-green middlemen to act as monetary parasites?
When I say "radical green activists," I'm not exaggerating -- Earth First! members were among those in the crowd.
And although I might agree with the protesters' critiques of "carbon trading," I differ strongly with their stated rationale. I'm all for reducing pollution, but we don't need a trumped-up excuse like "climate change" in order to achieve a cleaner environment. Minimizing pollution is a legitimate goal which stands on its own merits; concocting hysterical disaster scenarios (such as those shown in An Inconvenient Truth) only serves to undermine any credibility the environmental and conservation movements once had.
Don't promote a worthy cause with ridiculous exaggerations! The "climate justice" movement and its laughable global warming hysterics have set back honest environmentalism decades.
But alas. The speakers were shrill and, sadly, for the most part divorced from reality.
My favorite sign was this one which read, "Pay me $10,000 and I'll stop smoking," which succinctly sums up the economics behind "carbon trading."
Because we don't look like the radicals out in the rally, our tour could do something the radicals couldn't do: Enter the hotel and infiltrate the conference itself! Shhhhh! Everybody act cool.
The day's schedule was displayed at the entrance to the conference. In a stroke of bad timing, we showed up right in the middle of the "Mix and Mingle Lunch," and missed all the actual presentations.
Sure enough, as we descended the escalator to the main conference area, everyone was mixing and mingling and trading carbon like there was no tomorrow. Notice how everyone at the conference was wearing expensive business suits -- it seems that Mobilization for Climate Justice pegged the conference attendees perfectly: bankers, oil executives, and financial speculators. Do these people look like they care for the environment?
Oh, the irony -- the conference speakers prepared their presentations in the "green room." Green as in money, that is.
(Click on "next page" button below for the next stop on the tour.)
OK, now it's back up to the street and on to our next stop. Put on your walking shoes, because we have a few blocks before we get to the...
2. SEIU Immigration Amnesty Protest -- 1:00pm, San Francisco Federal Building, 90 Seventh Street
The SEIU -- the Service Employees International Union -- has in the last couple years risen from relative obscurity to become one of the most powerful political groups in the country. Much of that rise coincided with the rise of Barack Obama: The union pinned all their hopes on him, and pulled every imaginable trick (legal or not) to help him get elected. And it worked. Now their man is in the White House, and the SEIU is not about to let this opportunity pass.
For example, SEIU's boss Andy Stern visited Obama in the White House at least 22 times just in the first seven months of the administration -- and doubtlessly many more times since then. SEIU's goals are the president's goals.
And what are those goals? Well, one of them was the purpose of this rally: Complete amnesty and full rights for illegal immigrants -- including voting rights. If they succeed in this drive, the electoral landscape would change suddenly and drastically, theoretically adding millions of voters to the SEIU voting bloc. And with that unstoppable momentum, SEIU would press for their other demands, leading to the unionization of America.
Even though the SEIU has a good friend in the White House and an Executive Branch bureaucracy actively working to promote their cause, the protesters chose to hold their rally directly outside the San Francisco Federal Building. Because of stringent security precautions in place due to a variety of terrorist threats and actions since 9/11, Homeland Security necessarily was on hand to monitor the situation. Luckily, this event was peaceful.
As we left the rally, I noticed something which may have contributed to the anger of the protesters. See the small plaque in the center of the picture? Scroll down....
The building's indentifying plaque still names George Bush as President. No wonder the SEIU protesters were pissed off!
(Click the next page button below for the next stop on the tour.)
Next, everybody quickly scurry over to the...
3. "Block That Tea Party" meeting -- 1:30pm, Civic Center Plaza
I've already published an extensive photo essay about this stop on the tour, so rather than re-publish it, I encourage everyone who hasn't already seen it to click this link and read the full account of what happened here at Civic Center:
In short: Left-wing counter-protesters announced that they would gather at Civic Center to prepare their infiltration of the conservative Tea Party later in the day. Only a few people actually showed up, as you can see.
While the latecomers are reading the original essay linked above, the rest of us on the tour can amuse ourselves by looking at some of the other "coverage" of this event which appeared on other sites. In particular, the writer of this bizarre article in the far-left San Francisco Bay Guardian mistakenly thought that this counter-protest was the Tea Party, and then he proceeds to mock the conservatives for their meager turnout and for being outnumbered by counter-protesters at their own protest. The commenters on the article all chime in and agree, heaping scorn on the handful of possible real Tea Partiers at Civic Center. From the article:
For all the hype about Tax Day Tea Parties, include two in San Francisco this afternoon, it was progressive causes that put the most protesters on the streets today. In fact, at a 1 p.m. Tea Party outside City Hall, the teabaggers were way outnumbered by journalists and satirical "teabaggers" doing street theater.
For awhile, 70-year-old Al Anolik -- clad in his American flag shirt and NRA hat -- was the only teabagger present, although he was joined by 23-year-old Odell Howard (wearing his American flag on his hat) at about 1:20 p.m. Another pair arrived later, making it four in all.
"It is San Francisco," Anolik offered by way of explaining the anemic gathering.
One wonders: Could the leftists in San Francisco be that clueless? Did they really not know that a huge real Tea Party happened later the same day in Union Square?
No. Something even more preposterous is afoot.
Note especially this comment left at the Bay Guardian article:
I was one of the satirical group, Billionaires for Wealthcare at the Civic Center gathering. I observed that the "tea party" people mostly took a long time to catch on that we were doing satire and some of them never got it at all. No matter what outlandish political or economic statement we made, someone in their little band would agree with us.
As for the claim that they are just patriots expressing their patriotic views, when the TV journalist showed up, one of their small number immediately gave her the finger while he shouted "F...the liberal media." Another tea party sympathizer did a rant at us full of sexual language which I am too embarrassed to repeat here.
And it struck me: The purpose behind this widely announced Civic Center gathering was not to prepare to go invade the actual Tea Party, but rather to advertise it as the real Tea Party itself, in order to confuse hapless conservatives who would show up in Civic Center at the wrong place and time, only to serve as fodder for left-wing jibes -- and simultaneously siphoning off attendees from the authentic event later in the day.
The fact that only two possible real Tea Partiers showed up at Civic Center, and did so consciously as a way to counter-disrupt this phony event, shows that the left-wingers' plan failed even more spectacularly that I had previously realized.
But it's even worse than that. In the comment cited above, one of the left-wing protesters said, "One of their [the Tea Partiers] small number immediately gave her the finger while he shouted 'F...the liberal media.'"
Hold on! That moment was captured on film. And it turns out that the "right-winger" who shouted "Fuck the liberal media" was not a right-winger at all, but actually yet another left-wing infiltrator, in this case posing as a redneck reporter for "Right Wing Media."
I kid you not. Watch this incredibly inept attempt at acting by a college-age left-wing activist trying to convince us that he's an ignorant hick (all the revelant action is in the first two minutes of the video; you can stop watching after that):
Notice how he titles the video "Tea Party Visits The Fag Capitol," and lists his interests as "mustangs, family values, anal." No matter how hard they try, the leftist would-be infiltrators just can't can't keep in character, and always resort to juvenile attempts at mockery.
He went to all that effort, and yet still (as of this writing) had only 115 views on his YouTube video report. Fail, fail, fail.
I finally realized that he was probably a member of that "Billionaires for Wealthcare" satirical troup himself, and that his faux redneck act was part of the whole skit. Layers upon layers upon layers of convoluted failure.
The tour group will now take a break for lunch, before we head off to the last stop...
4. San Francisco Tax Day Tea Party -- 4:00pm, Union Square
And finally: the climactic conclusion of our afternoon tour: The real Tea Party, in Union Square.
On the stage in the background is event organizer Sally Zelikovsky. The Reaganesque speech she gave that day has been transcribed and can be read here, for those who want to understand what the self-described values of the San Francisco Tea Party movement really are.
One of my favorite Tea Party shirts was this one, a riff on the Internet meme "Don't Tase Me, Bro!"
And my other favorite shirt was this deconstruction of the iconic Che image, morphed into Reagan.
A nice summation of the self-sufficiency and individual responsibility advocated by the San Francisco Tea Partiers.
I already partly covered this Tea Party event in my previously linked "Crashing the Crashers: Tea Party Infiltrators Outmaneuvered in S.F." report, with many photos of the would-be infiltrators and the response to their attempts. Thus, the photos included here on this page are simply interesting and amusing images of the Tea Partiers themselves.
I diligently scanned the crowd for "extremist" and "racist" and "violent" messages. Total found: Zero. This sign was about as extreme as they got.
Anti-communism was the underlying message of the rally. And of course, driving this fresh rejection of communism is the unspoken assumption that the current president and his administration are pushing socialist economic policies. Is that an extreme assumption? You decide. I tend to think it's a pretty fair characterization of the direction Obama is headed.
Oh dear! He used the President's middle name! Stop being so extremist!
Yup. That about sums it up.
But wait! Notice how she combined "racist" and "fascist" to create the misspelled combo-word "rascist." This definitely is destined to be highlighted by Tea Party detractors as yet another example of "Teabonics," a catchy name to describe the occasional misspellings on protest signs at Tea Party rallies.
So, naturally, I also spent the day looking for other examples of "Teabonics," to see how common misspellings really are at these events.
After searching for hours, I only discovered two other boo-boos. Here's one. Look! She accidentally left the "u" out of "Requiring!" That means her entire worldview is flawed!
And this guy left the second "n" out of "Government." True he noticed the mistake, and later put the second "n" back in there, to correct the typo, but don't you try to fool us with your proofreading, you ignorant teabagger! You left out a letter! And you will never live it down!
Of course, the truth is that I've seen (and photographed) infinitely more illiterate and misspelled signs at left-wing and anti-war protests over the last eight years. This inconvenient fact is universally ignored by the bozos promoting the "Teabonics" meme.
In fact, long ago I would occasionally highlight just a few of the overwhelming number of misspelled left-wing protest signs, such as this mini-report which I titled "DOWN WITH LITERACY!" But after 2005 it became wearisome and I stopped focusing on them or even pointing them out, mainly because I realized that noting your opponents' misspellings in no way legitimately challenges their political philosophy -- a lesson which the modern-day detractors of the Tea Party have yet to learn.
This being San Francisco, naturally all sorts of eccentrics showed up, as they do at every public event. Tea Partier? Infiltrator? Tourist? Or just part of living in San Francisco? (Adding to the strangeness: He was barefoot.)
Mattel has now released a life-sized Tea Party Ken doll!
Taking the expression "Swirling the drain" literally.
At his inauguration, Obama and his supporters liked to compare him to Lincoln. But this Tea Partier found a nice Lincoln quote which contradicts Obama's economic policy.
As noted in my "Crashing the Crashers" report, several objectivist Ayn Rand fans showed up to proclaim their fondness for capitalism. Has it really come to this, that it's necessary to protest in favor of capitalism, because the whole system seems under assault from our own government? Adam Smith help us!
Couldn't have said it better myself.
I don't know who made the first of these signs, over a year ago, but the "Spread My Work Ethic, Not My Wealth" slogan is now so common that it has practically become the unofficial Tea Party motto.
And so our tour comes to an end. A San Francisco experience you can't find in any other city!
Want to experience America's most unique tour company? Come join the fun! The itinerary* for tomorrow (April 20, 2010) will take us to several events, including:
✦ A Taste of Rope -- Erotic Rope and Wine Sampling: "A unique and intimate erotic adventure. A Taste of Rope invites you and your submissive to join us for an erotic wine tasting featuring some of California's finest Zinfandels and the world's finest ropes. Experience the intricate differences in the ropes bite, toothy or sleek quality, the smell, the taste, its ability to make your submissive squeals or moan in deep pleasure."
✦ Mornings in Jenin: A Palestinian Epic Narration: "Come and listen to the Palestinian narrative...history, identity, friendship, love, terrorism, surrender, courage, and hope. 'Mornings in Jenin' forces us to take a fresh look at one of the defining conflicts of our lifetimes."
✦ The People Speak -- screening of Howard Zinn documentary: "Throughout April 2010, the International Socialist Organization will be holding community screenings of the documentary feature film The People Speak at more than 30 campuses and communities around the country....Narrated by the late, acclaimed historian Howard Zinn, The People Speak brings to life the letters, diaries and speeches of everyday Americans who fought for equality and justice from the bottom up."
✦ Walk Against Rape: "The goal of Walk Against Rape is to empower survivors, their friends, families and supporters, to break that silence by walking together on the streets against rape, and declare that San Francisco will not tolerate sexual violence."
✦ LGBT Economic Empowerment Day: "The theme of this year's event is Discover, Dream and Design."
✦ Art as Propaganda Workshop: Being Artist. Being Aware. Being Arab-American: "Participants are invited to bring digital cameras and will be sent into the streets to photograph a finite number of images, using Hyder's instructions, then return to share their findings."
✦ Yin Energy Festival: "The 'Yin Energy Festival' in recognition of SWAN Day, a new holiday that celebrates women artists worldwide."
* Note: Satire. No actual tours given. The April 20 events listed above are all real, and the April 15 protests all happened exactly as shown, but if you want to go on a San Francisco political tour, you'll have to arrange it yourself!