To Eric Frans and Nadia Brenden, Norwegian exchange students attending UC Berkeley this fall, the growing crowd on Mission Street looked angry but organized. The two exchange students struggled to decipher the reason for such a gathering.
“What is this 99 percent I keep seeing?” Frans said. “There are signs for banks, for slavery and for poverty. What’s going on here?”
Sentiments like these were common for onlookers of the Oct. 15 protest in downtown San Francisco: Tourists and locals alike were astonished to see the swelling of a crowd larger than 2,000, marching in solidarity with more than 1,500 additional cities on this “World Wide International Day of Action.”
On Oct. 15, the agenda for Occupy SF was multifaceted. Prior to the march, select members of Occupy SF coordinated a route with police squads, assuring the safety of marchers. As 3 p.m. neared, the crowd gathered at 101 Market St., the location of the Federal Reserve building, flowing in on bikes, BART trains, cars and on foot.
Before the march had even begun, there were visible policy divisions taking place. As one protester climbed a column to denounce the unethical power of the military industrial complex, another man on the corner of Market and Drumm paraded with megaphone in hand, demanding banks not foreclose on his house.
Divisions of protester demands were prevalent throughout the day in San Francisco.
Gene Hermann, a specialist in internal medicine from Michigan observing the protest, vocalized similar sentiments to those of the exchange students.
“I don’t know what to really say — do they have jobs?” Hermann said. “They just don’t seem to be fighting for the same thing.”
Such critiques of the fellow occupations are consistent with commentary from both mass media and many individuals outside of the movement.
Marcher and San Francisco business owner Bob Gorringe, however, said the ambiguity of one specific goal is a strength of the movement rather than a weakness.
“We are all here for different reasons. People are starting to get it — this isn’t about being liberal or conservative, people are simply tired of how this system operates,” Gorringe said. “I mean, look around. These are people from different classes, different backgrounds, and they’re fed up. We’re growing faster than I could have imagined.”
The size of the protest had indeed risen greatly since the action’s inception a couple of weeks prior. On Oct. 5, the Occupy SF movement marched from Union Square to the Federal Reserve with less than 60 people. Two weeks from that day, the movement had gained more than 30 times that number.
“I was a little surprised myself,” Gorringe said. “It’s been less than a month since we started, and we’ve attracted such a diverse crowd. I’m just happy to help.”
Though Gorringe has assisted the movement since its formation in late September, he takes no role of authority over any other marcher, walking with his family and occasionally hollering, “We are the 99 percent!”
Also a concern for the movement is the danger of being “co-opted” by different social and political groups. In New York’s Occupy Wall Street, the actions of labor unions have often been seen as overstepping, but OccupyWallSt.org commends the aid of the fellow working class.
As one of the thousands marching on Saturday, Luke Adams came to San Francisco to bring his perspective to the table.
“I find it difficult to be heard, but my voice is as loud as any other of these fine people here today,” said Adams, a local pastor from the Agnostic Sanctuary in Mountain View, who said he stood with the movement as an American citizen rather than as a religious leader.
A Marine who reportedly toured twice in Iraq from 2002 onward was also seen in the ranks of protesters, with microphone in hand.
“We are here and we are not going away — wake up America, this is the real thing!” he said. While dictating his address to the audience, flanked by a few other servicemen, mobilizers tried to quiet him for the purpose of beginning the general assembly at San Francisco City Hall.
The occupation of City Hall took place at about 4:30 p.m. with longtime activist Jacob Feldman and another underground mobilizer self-labeled as “Magic” speaking. As the crowd gathered around, speeches began, often interspersed with deafening roars and applause from the audience.
There was no call for a set of demands, but speakers outlined what they hoped to combat. There were often rebuttals from opposing members of the crowd, but the general consensus was accepted.
“We are reclaiming the word ‘occupation’— we are occupying everywhere,” said Magic. “We have almost forgotten who we are, but it’s not too late! And as the empire dies, the people rise!”
Following these speeches, protesters returned to the streets, marching to the Federal Reserve and Justin Herman Plaza, just one block south of the FED where they plan to continue the occupation.