Occupy San Francisco Takes the Fight to Local Banks in Ambitious Next Step for Movement
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I approached a mustachioed man in a yellow poncho inscribed with the words “Money 4 Housing and Education, not 4 Banks and Corporations.” Alex Carlson, 34, was a paramedic who said the biggest reason he came out was to protest America’s lack of educational opportunities. “I couldn’t get into school just to get an EMI license. I had to beg a teacher to let me into his class. Nursing was my real goal, but there’s no money for nursing schools. It’s crazy because there’s a nursing shortage and there’s going to be a crisis of care when the bay boomers die off.”
Carlson said he had come out at the crack of dawn in the rain because he felt he had to.
“Like everyone else I’m just trying to carve out a little life for myself, but my knife is getting shorter and shorter,” he said. “I’m not a crazy activist person. I have a wife and a young son. Camping out isn’t an option for me. But I was able to come out today, so I did. And I’m proud.”
I walked down a block to a building housing Wells Fargo, where people protesting the bank’s role in the national foreclosure crisis had chained themselves in front of the entrances on all four sides. In one of the entrances, about eight people were squeezed in, their arms inside big yellow PVC pipes that were connected together. A policeman came up and politely informed them they were creating a public health risk and would be arrested if they didn’t leave. Dozens of police waited on the corner.
A woman with a bullhorn shouted slogans. A wildly energetic street band, three saxes, a trumpet, a big bass drum and a snare, played surreally cheerful Kurt Weill-like tunes, their vaguely Weimar sound oddly appropriate.
A fresh-faced young woman with glasses was sitting among the crowd in the entrance, with a sign that said “Give us our homes back.” I asked her why she was there. “My parents had their home in Southern California foreclosed,” she said. Her said her name was Sarah Lombardo and she was 28 years old. “They couldn’t make their payments because of medical costs. My mom had breast cancer and my dad had a stroke. They were told to leave in two weeks and our house was auctioned off. Now they’re living in an apartment, but their credit was destroyed so they had to pay three times the normal deposit.”
Lombardo said her mom was a purchasing agent and her dad was a factory worker. “I’m the first one in my family to go to college.” She said she came out because she wanted “to put a face to the statistics.” It was a face that looked like it belonged to the girl next door, or to your daughter.
She said that now that she had finished college, it made it possible for her to be arrested. “It’s for a good cause.”
I asked her if she had ever been arrested before. “No.” Was she afraid? “No, I’m not scared.”
Later, behind a cordon of police, I watched as protesters on the north side of the building were arrested, frisked and loaded into a paddy wagon. I rode off on my bike to cover some more actions. When I came back, Lombardo and the rest of the group of people in the doorway had been arrested.
Back up at 555 California, beyond the big turd-in-a-plaza artwork jokingly called the “banker’s heart,” I came upon an older man in a suit, carrying a sign that said “Give Us Our City Back.” I was intrigued: he was definitely not the usual Occupy protester. But when I asked him who he was, he turned out to be even more unusual than I could have expected. He was Warren Langley, the 69-year-old former head of the Pacific Stock Exchange.