From:   Jackie DiSalvo <jdisalvo@nyc.rr.com>
Sent time:   Sunday, October 30, 2011 11:16:05 PM
To:   labor-outreach-committee@googlegroups.com
Cc:   september17@googlegroups.com
Subject:   [september17discuss] Labor Movement Key to Preventing Raid on Occupy San Francisco Encampment
 

S.F. Labor Movement Key to Preventing Raid of Occupy SF Encampment

 

By ALAN BENJAMIN

 

The San Francisco Chronicle reported today (Friday, October 28) that the S.F. Police Department had mobilized large numbers of police officers and special riot troops late Wednesday evening to raid and take down the Occupy SF encampment under orders from Interim S.F. Mayor Ed Lee. But in the early hours of Thursday morning, the Chronicle reports, the mayor and Police Chief Greg Suhr reversed their decision and ordered the troops -- including a big contingent of riot troops that had mobilized from Treasure Island toward San Francisco at about 3 a.m. -- to back down and return to their home bases.

 

The lead article and the accompanying piece by editorial writer C.W. Nevius noted that one of the main reasons for this about-face by the mayor and police chief was the large turnout by union officers and members who had come to help protect the encampment. Another reason was the all-night presence at Occupy SF of five Board of Supervisors members.

 

The Chronicle articles are correct, but they don't tell the full story.

 

On Wednesday afternoon, a group of labor and community organizations met with Mayor Lee to ask him if it was true, as had been widely rumored, that he had ordered a raid of Occupy SF late that night because of "sanitation concerns."

 

Immediately following the meeting, Bobbi López, a member of SEIU 1021, sent out an urgent memo in which she stated that during the meeting Mayor Lee did not deny this rumor -- and this could only mean one thing: the order to raid had been issued. Sister López called on all unionists to gather at the encampment at 9:30 p.m. "to keep the movement going." A similar message was sent out by S.F. Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson to Council executive board members.

 

In less than two hours, an emergency-response labor phone and email tree was activated, and by 9:30 p.m. more than 80 San Francisco union members -- including Paulson, SFLC President Mike Casey, SF Building Trades Council Director Mike Therriault, SFLC Vice President Conny Ford, and six other e-board members -- were at the encampment. The overwhelming majority were ready to be arrested, if that's what it took to protect Occupy SF.

 

We were joined as well by hundreds of youth and community activists -- many of whom had come as a group from San Francisco State University, City College, and the East Bay, to name a few places, to reinforce the defense effort.

 

But this was not all: Before leaving City Hall after the meeting with Mayor Lee, the union and community activists knocked on all the doors of the S.F. Board of Supervisors members, urging them to get down asap to the encampment to help prevent the raid. And not only did five of the Supervisors show up, four remained at the encampment till dawn. Former Board of Supervisors Aaron Peskin also joined the group.

 

Though the numbers dwindled a bit throughout the night, what was remarkable was that a majority of the union officers and members held firm till dawn. Everyone knew that if we did not all stay firm till the early morning commute, the raid would take place at 3 or 4 in the morning.

 

We now know that the raid had been planned for those early hours. But the plan was foiled. This represents a first victory over the forces that have been hell-bent on shutting down Occupy SF. But it is not a permanent victory. Labor and community leaders and activists need to remain vigilant and prepared to act again on short notice should they be needed to defend Occupy SF.

 

-----

 

Alan Benjamin is a member of the Executive Board of the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO (as a delegate from OPEIU Local 3). He was among the unionists who stood with Occupy SF to defend the encampment against the planned police raid.

 

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