SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Labor Council attracted several hundred protesters to march from the Federal Building on Mission Street to the financial district – with spirited stops outside Wells Fargo Bank (king of foreclosures), Verizon (obscene disparity in salaries between executives and workers) , and the Embarcadero Hyatt (egregious treatment of workers, especially women). Seniors and wheelchair-bound protesters were especially evident at this event to protest cuts to social security and medical care and health insurance companies’ business practices.
“Roger” – he still works in the insurance industry – agrees with the effort to “tax the rich” and “no cuts to health care benefits and social security.”
“Over the last twenty-years I’ve become increasingly discouraged as we, as a nation, have moved away from our values. Then I found the 99% group, people of action trying to change things for the better.”
Roger is plump, 57-year-old “white guy” who has never before in his life participated in public protest. His face glowed with pleasure when I used his camera to photograph him with a Vietnam vet holding a sign stating that more than 5,000 war veterans have lost their homes to foreclosure.
Roger once worked for a health insurance company. “Honestly, I agree with these protesters that health care insurance is an extremely corrupt field. The industry has ways of making money that hurts the average person. The company I worked for had deductibles for families and if one family had more health problems than another family working for the same corporation they’d raise the deductibles for the corporation making it more expensive for the corporation to keep that family on…and that gave it an incentive to fire that employee.”
Like many other Americans around the country who’ve never protested before, something about this protest, this message (despite mainstream media’s claim that there isn’t one) touches something deep within Americans like Roger; they know intuitively that it’s the right time for these protests. And Roger has taken to the Occupy movement like he was born to it. Joyfully he explains that he takes boxes of donuts each morning to the Occupy encampment at Justin Herman Plaza. “Sure, they’re donuts, not the healthiest things around but I do it as we all enjoy eating ‘em and talking things over.”
And, yes, Occupy San Francisco is back! Evicted last week, the camp – larger than ever -- was in full swing this week. Campers, protesters, ferry commuters, and tourists joined in as singer/protest song writer Dave Rovics encouraged his audience to join his refrain that “we’ll stay…right…here!”
There are lingering fears throughout the camp that SFPD is planning another action to clear the camp. But, for now, the plaza looks like America: youth, middle-aged, able-bodied seniors and those on walkers and in wheelchairs, singers, poets…and insurance agents… understand that We, the 99% are not gonna take it anymore and we plan to “stay right here”!