Protesters took part in demonstrations against large banks and corporations Friday in several parts of San Francisco and around the Bay Area.
The goal of the planned demonstration, billed as the Occupy Wall Street West Day of Action, was to disrupt businesses in San Francisco’s Financial District.
Many protesters gathered in front of Bank of America’s main branch at 345 Montgomery St. and Wells Fargo Corporate Headquarters at 420 Montgomery St. early Friday morning, blocking both entrances and chaining themselves to the buildings, eventually causing both banks to close for the day.
Wendy Kaufmyn, a teacher from San Francisco City College, chained herself to the door handles of Well Fargo Corporate Headquarters at 6:30 a.m.
“I am here because Wells Fargo is part of a broken system that needs to take responsibility,” said Kaufmyn.
After six hours, she and the others who were chained with her deemed their actions successful and unchained themselves.
Wells Fargo eventually boarded up the windows, ATMs and entrances to the building.
“I am a teacher and I see that many students are working full time, they are going to school full time and they still don’t have enough money,” said Kaufmyn. “So, they take out a predatory loan and they are underwater by the time they graduate. So, what are we doing with the future?”
Demonstrations throughout the day included a mock foreclosure at the Citigroup Center on Sansome Street, where protesters piled furniture and moving boxes into the revolving door of the main entrance, and a teach-in at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Demonstrators performed flash mobs, and one group, Iraq Veterans Against the War, performed “guerrilla theater” by acting out the detainment of fellow protesters. The performance was intended to draw attention toward the controversial National Defense Authorization Act that was signed into law Dec. 31.
Other demonstrations also took place in Bernal Hights, Excelsior and the Mission District.
Protesters’ actions disrupted public transportation and snarled traffic for several hours in various parts of the city.
Some who weren’t participating in the day of action found it to be an inconvenience.
“This is interfering with a simple man’s living,” said Mike Jankowski, an SF State alumnus, who was observing from the sidewalk as protesters marched by him on California Street.
Jankowski did acknowledge that the banking system is out of hand, but doesn’t feel demonstrations like OWS West are effective.
“What happens is they are disrupting their own people. Shutting down streets is not the way to do it,” Jankowski said.
Protesters from other occupy movements around the Bay Area, such as Berkeley, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Oakland and SF State were also present and participating in the day of action.
“San Francisco State University, like all the CSUs and UCs across the state and other public institutions across the country, have suffered drastically,” said Federico Villalobos, a member of Occupy SFSU and art history major at SF State. “We are losing classes, lecturers, professors, money. Students are being denied solely because their are no funds.”
The final march and day of action ended at Van Ness Avenue and Geary Street where hundreds of protesters faced off with SFPD as they tried to enter the vacant Cathedral Hill Hotel. Police took action, pepper spraying approximately a dozen protesters. Demonstrators eventually gained access to the hotel but were cleared out a few hours later.
According to a press release issued Saturday by OWS West, participants considered Friday’s actions a success.
A total of 23 arrests were made at the demonstration Friday, according to the San Francisco Police Department.