SAN FRANCISCO — If Monday night was any indication of things to come, this was going to be a lively May Day. But the vandalism that marred San Francisco’s Mission District last night gave way to a mostly peaceful day of action by varied groups throughout the Bay Area.
The day began with a strike by Golden Gate ferry workers that disrupted the morning commute for thousands of people; service reportedly resumed on schedule by mid-afternoon. A planned shutdown of the Golden Gate Bridge in solidarity with bridge workers, who have been without a contract for over a year, was averted, as was the traffic nightmare that undoubtedly would have accompanied the action.
Across the bay in Oakland, things got a bit ugly when police and Occupy protesters clashedrepeatedly, with officers resorting to tear gas and flash-bang grenades to control fringe anarchist elements of what was otherwise a peaceful day of rallies and marches against corporate greed attended by hundreds of demonstrators.
In San Francisco, two morning marches in support of immigrants’ rights, janitors and retail workers made their ways through the Mission and Financial districts. Members of the Occupy movement also re-occupied a vacant building near city hall and re-established what they’re calling the SF Commune. Occupiers had been forcibly evicted from the building, with scores arrested, on April 2; this time police stood by and watched as protesters took control of the building. Several protesters claimed they had permission from the buildings’ owner, the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
Demonstrators at the commune site promoted a variety of causes. Jim Dorenkott, a Vietnam veteran carrying a ‘Veterans for Peace’ flag, said he was protesting on behalf of homeless vets.
“One out of every three homeless people are veterans,” he said. “Vets need help. God bless Occupy Wall Street because they are trying to help.”
Jae Shon, from the Axis of Love SF, a “medical cannabis community center,” decried the federal crackdown on California’s state-legal medical marijuana industry. Shon, 33, cited the economic benefits of medical cannabis and expressed his profound disappointment in President Obama. “I’m heartbroken,” he said of the president’s broken promise of a hands-off federal approach to state-approved medical marijuana. “We had all these great expectations,” he lamented.
A festively-clad young woman who called herself Spiraleena stressed the need to “ratify the Bill of Rights for domestic workers.” And “end injustice.” And “promote human rights for everyone.”
It was that kind of day: a hodge-podge of various left-leaning groups, taking to the streets, plazas and airwaves to express their discontent– and hope– on this International Workers’ Day.