Rainy, wet and fabulous.

1/23/2012 Update: Watch the new video “Embody the Movement” of J20 & the One People Flashmob just added towards the end of this post.

On January 20, Occupy Wall Street West made ‘business as usual’ uncomfortable in the financial core of  San Francisco. Despite copious rain, protests began at 6am, continued at Wells Fargo and Bank of America branches, moved to the courts, back to Bechtel and the banks, labor and immigrant rights marches targeting I.C.E offices and culminating with a huge and spirited march up Market St as night fell. Occupy SF later held a General Assembly on the top of the vacant Cathedral Hill Hotel and dropped the ‘People’s Food Bank of America banner off the side of the building.  Read a report back from the morning’s actions here.

Disrupting business at three banks or more was no small feat.  Kudos to those that peacefully blocked the doors by locking arms inside PVC pipes and sat there for over 8 hours, preventing the banks from opening. Rainforest Action Network was hard at work looking for the corporation/person Mr. Bank O. America, highlighting the result of the FEC vs Citizens United Supreme Court ruling which prohibits governments from placing limits on corporations or unions on independent political spending. Throughout the day people carried signs and chanted, “Corporations are not  people”, “Money is not speech” and “People before profit”.

Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Global Exchange, Fellowship of Reconciliation, New Priorities Campaign and others were present outside the Bechtel headquarters all day, protesting Bechtel’s practice of greed and destruction. A record of the day, as well as links to Bechtel facts is at the @bechtelaction twitter feed. Bechtel spends millions on campaign contributions and lobbyists who secure war contracts, undermining democratic process, while directing billions of public dollars to build nuclear weapons and make its CEO a billionaire. Bechtel received more than $2 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds to fund infrastructure rebuilding projects in Iraq. Its Pentagon contracts increased $700 million in 2009 after heavy lobbying on the military spending bill, and rose to $2.49 billion in 2011. Kirsten Moller describes the morning’s events here.

At 3pm about 75 people gathered to hear testimony about Bechtel, the impacts of war and occupation in the US and abroad. Global Exchange’s Dalit Baum spoke about corporate profiteering from war and ‘conflict management. Watch it here. At the end, IVAW members staged Operation First Casualty – recreating the situation and conditions present in Iraq which allow US military to arbitrarily detain civilians, by abducting members of the teach in. IVAW members had staged this action at different locations throughout the day and created a loud, aggressive and frankly, scary environment that brought home the sense of terror that people in Iraq and other occupied countries experience every day. The action is captured here. It contains strong language.

The action drew attention to a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that obliterates constitutionally protected due process rights, permitting the the arrest and indefinite detention of US citizens anywhere in the world, including the US. More information about the NDAA can be read here.

The People’s Food Bank of America served up food to everyone at Justin Herman/Bradley Manning Plaza and Dancing Without Borders and CodePINK staged the ‘One People’ Flashmob before we marched up Market street behind the ‘Seize the Banks’ banner. Many folks sought shelter before arriving to the Cathedral Hill Hotel to post photos (a great stream of photos from the day are here), videos and blogs, warm wet feet and reflect on the Day of Action – believing that whatever happens next – we are unstoppable.

Added 1/23/12: Check out this new video “Embody the Movement of J20 & the One People Flashmob:

Hundreds of people have gathered in downtown San Francisco’s Financial District today despite the wind and rain to take part in a day of mass action against corporations, banks, and the courts. While people from many different walks of life are joining the actions today, there are a few consistent messages which are being voiced: corporations are not people, money is not speech, and people should come before profit.

Line of people holding US budget banner in front of Bechtel

Since early this morning; a multitude of people, groups, movements, and communities have self-organized and taken action to disrupt business-as-usual at various corporations and banks throughout the financial district. Global Exchange chose Bechtel as a target for today, partnering with our friends from of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Fellowship of Reconciliation, New Priorities Campaign and others, forming the Bechtel Action Group, to protest the waste and corruption of the Bechtel corporation and the ways that it’s power has influenced the nation’s budget priorities.

The action began at 6am this morning when several dozen people successfully blocked the entrance to Bechtel’s San Francisco headquarters. Global Exchange’s Organizing Director Kirsten Moller along with other staff were present for the early morning action which lasted until about 9:30am when people peacefully exited the building. The Carnival of Resistance bus led by Occupy Oakland stopped by Bechtel and there was singing and chanting throughout the morning while a group of people stood in front of Bechtel handing out information to people passing by and holding a 30 foot banner outlining the current US budget and a breakdown of where American tax dollars are being allocated:  59% to military and military contractors, with only 4% going to Education and 6% to Health and Human Services.

Umbrellas painted with 'People before profit' at Bechtel

Why Bechtel?

  • The Bechtel Corporation is one of the largest engineering and construction firms in the world, and the fifth largest privately held firm in the United States.
  • It is one of the world’s leading nuclear engineering and construction firms, providing construction support services for nuclear power plants around the world.
  • Bechtel is one of of the major corporations that has profited from the Iraq War through reconstruction contracts. On April 17 the US Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded a contract worth $680 million to Bechtel Corp.
  •  It builds and manages huge petrochemical, transportation, energy and mining projects worldwide and is one of the largest U.S. military contractors.
  • It is involved in the construction of oil refineries, pipelines and dam construction and built the infrastructure at Hanford, Washington for the secret Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb.
  • Bechtel and its alumni have become an integral part of the U.S. power structure serving as a chair of the Atomic Energy Commission and director of the Central Intelligence Agency; serving  as  Reagan’s Defense Secretary (Caspar Weinberger) and Secretary of State (George Schultz) .
  • Bechtel plays a significant role in the privatization of infrastructure. In Cochabamba, Bolivia they tried to privatize the water system and were thwarted by local and international opposition. Still Bechtel proudly bills itself as “a one-of-a-kind industry leader in infrastructure privatization.

Food Bank of America

Some of the other actions that have unfolded so far have included groups blocking the entrances to major banks including Wells Fargo and Bank of America where organizers set up a ‘Food Bank of America’ distributing fresh, hot food cooked by volunteers, Occupy the Courthouse led by Move to Amend, and street theater actions led by Iraq Veterans Against The War (IVAW) throughout downtown.

At 3pm the Bechtel Action Group will reconvene at Bechtel’s headquarters (50 Beale Street) for a teach-in and at 5pm Occupy Wall Street West will converge on Justin Herman/Bradley Manning Plaza for a massive march down Market Street.

For more information on Bechtel, visit http://www.globalexchange.org/BechtelAction to download some resources.

In ‘Republic, Lost’ academic and lawyer Lawrence Lessig writes:

…The problem with Congress is not just in appearance. It is real. It is the product of an economy of influence that we have allowed to evolve within our government … That economy systematically draws members away from the focus, or dependance, they were intended to have. That dependance … is corruption. It is the corruption that is our government.

The Occupiers have, and continue to, expose corporate greed and demand an end to the overwhelming influence that money has in our systems – economic, political and even social. On January 17, hundreds gathered on Capitol Hill to welcome members back to Congress after the winter break and decry corporate influence in the government.

On January 20, a mass day of direct action will shut down so-called Wall Street West – the financial core of San Francisco. Over 50 organizations have plans for actions throughout the day to “crack the corporate piggy bank” and target corporate power.

Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Global Exchange, Fellowship of Reconciliation, New Priorities Campaign and others will be present outside the Bechtel headquarters all day, protesting Bechtel’s practice of greed and destruction. Bechtel spends millions on campaign contributions and lobbyists who secure war contracts, undermining democratic process, while directing billions of public dollars to build nuclear weapons and make its CEO a billionaire. Follow the action on twitter at @BechtelAction.

On January 21, the Nationwide Day of Action to “overturn the devastating FEC vs. Citizens United ruling and end corporate rule” – Occupy the Corporations – will call on elected officials to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the two year-old ruling – the impacts of which we have yet to experience in this 2012 election cycle. On this day, across the US, people will stand up and say enough is enough to corporate influence in elections.

But this will not be enough, we’re calling for deep structural changes to our governing systems, including passing laws that place the rights of communities and nature above the claimed “rights” of corporations. Over 150 US communities have already written new rules, refusing to be divided by partisan politics and to staying focused on dismantling corporate rule by taking control of our own structures of government. Rule by the people.

If we can remain united (truly citizens united) in this global revolution it is we — the 99% — that are too big to fail.

A little inspiration? Lessig further states, “…anyone who would resist this system would be a pariah on the Hill. You can just head the dialogue from any number of Hollywood films: ‘We’ve got a good thing going here, Jimmy. Why would you want to go and mess things up?'”

I’ve always thought a little mess made things better.

Happy New Year!

It’s a new year and with the advent of the cold weather, police raids, and a media that has effectively painted the Occupy movement as dirty and dangerous—many people are beginning to wonder if we’ve seen the last of the movement.

Has there really been a sea-change in consciousness or was the tremendous swelling of potential so place-based that it can’t survive?  What is direct democracy when it is spread out across a continent, indeed a globe with demands for fairness, equality and community?

It’s time to take a look and get the facts straight. Over 2779 Occupy Groups around the country are listed on Occupy Together. And they don’t seem to be fading away.

In New York’s Zucotti Park, the barriers have come down and though there is no camping, the square is active every day with teach-ins, meetings and action planning.

More and more, the Occupy movement is linking its critique of corporate greed and corruption to issues of fairness, democracy and national priorities.
Many communities have Occupy Our Homes which work in neighborhoods and small towns to stop, delay or disrupt home foreclosures; meeting their neighbors to map out threatened homes, going in groups to renegotiate loans and in some cases setting up camp in homes that are about to be evicted.

In Washington DC, plans are in place to Occupy Congress on January 17th to draw attention to the fact that Congress is not serving the people who elected them but chooses to serve a corporate master instead. Occupiers from around the country will converge on the U.S. Capitol for teach-ins, visits to their representatives and a march and rally.

In San Francisco, Jan 20th, the last business day before the one-year anniversary of the “Citizens United” ruling, which treats corporations as people for free speech purposes, was the day picked to take over and disrupt business as usual in the Financial District; the Wall Street of the West. It is to be one of the largest self-organized actions including labor unions, environmental groups, peace groups, housing activists, churches, veterans and unaffiliated people staking out a claim to the city, an end to corporate greed and power while building a broad and inclusive network for social justice. Get more information and get involved.

All around the country people are recognizing that both Republicans and Democrats are complicit in a sold out system where political contributions from large corporations are labeled free speech and drown out the voices of average Americans.

But we, the 99%, know that Corporations are not people and Money is not speech!

We may be tired of the word ”occupy,” tired of camping and fighting with police but, as we enter this weekend of remembrance for Martin Luther King Jr. and honor his enduring spirit of service and justice, we are more clear than ever that we are present – we are people and our speech is real.

Show your support and say I AM the 99%. Click here to order stickers.