FIRST PERSON | SAN FRANCISCO — Members of the Occupy movement re-occupied a vacant building owned by the Archdiocese of San Francisco today, nearly a month to the day after they were forcibly evicted on April 2. Scores of protesters were arrested that day; today’s action was peaceful and police officers stood by and watched as dozens of demonstrators moved into the building. Several protesters claimed they had permission this time, which could have explained the passive observance of the police.
They call themselves the SF Commune. Their members are a diverse lot. Young, old, black, white, crunchy hippies and masked anarchists co-mingled as the aroma of marijuana wafted through the air. Their causes were as varied as the protesters themselves– anti-war and Wall Street greed, pro-medical marijuana, immigrants’ rights and domestic workers were all represented, just to name a few.
Jim Dorenkott, a Vietnam veteran, wanted to draw attention to the fact that one out of every three homeless people in America is a veteran. “Vets need our help,” he said. “God bless Occupy Wall Street because they are trying to help.”
Jae Shon, 33, was circulating a petition calling on the federal government to respect California’s state-legal medical marijuana industry. “It’s to save jobs,” he said, adding that cannabis provides “opportunities for future generations.” Shon said he was “heartbroken” by President Barack Obama’s broken promise to leave state-legal medical marijuana industries alone.
A walk through the re-occupied building’s labyrinthine hallways– no cameras allowed– revealed many commune members hard at work making the space into something resembling a home. Hot meals were cooked and served outside; a loudspeaker blaring what sounded like Hugo Weaving’s monologue from the film V For Vendetta out a window could be heard halfway down the block. It was a fitting soundtrack considering all the Guy Fawkes masks around.
It was a peaceful scene, although it was unclear how long the dozen or so police officers standing patiently by across the street would allow the occupation to continue.