David Dodd 1:48 a.m., May 18
Occupy San Diego Pushes Vendors to Return
In response to the departure of both a coffee and hot dog vendor from the Civic Center plaza, who claim to have been driven out by lewd behavior and perceived intimidation, Occupy San Diego published a press release on November 4 stating:
“Occupy San Diego openly expresses its support for Centre City Coffee and Brooklyn Dogs, the family-owned vendor carts operating at the Civic Center, and suggests that they reopen to set new sales records with hundreds of customers ready to purchase their products. Occupy San Diego suggests that instead of closing, these carts should extend their hours of operation to service the many participants at the Civic Center Plaza after regular business hours.
"We are led to believe that these businesses are having hard times because of the public events in the square. But the coffee cart complained of rampant homelessness and dangerous conditions in an April 22, 2008 letter to City Beat (attached below), long before Occupy San Diego was on the scene. The fact that there are now dozens and sometimes hundreds or thousands of people in the square – potential customers for these businesses – seems to be missed in the rush to blame Occupy San Diego for any challenges these business may face. A nearby business – Downtown Johnny Browns – reports that their business is up at least 60%. The normally vacant square is filled, around the clock, with people with money jingling in their pockets.
"Occupy San Diego will not be protesting or taking any role in the event being sponsored by Mr. DeMaio on Nov 7.
[Note: councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio is holding a fundraiser to offset the vendors’ losses at 6 p.m. on Monday at Downtown Johnny Brown’s, adjacent to the plaza where the occupation has maintained a presence since early October.]
"If any protestors show up to oppose the event have nothing to do with the official policy of the movement. Anyone who does come to the event at Downtown Johnny Browns is encouraged to also meet with Occupy San Diego participants to learn about the banking industry corruption and outright fraud that has resulted in the ongoing recession affecting not only coffee and hot dog carts, but every other worker and homeowner who is a member of the 99%.”
“I'm sure any business would appreciate a fundraiser in this down economy, but the event planned by Carl DeMaio is more about getting publicity for his Mayoral campaign and tarnishing Occupy San Diego than helping business interests,” said Occupy San Diego participant Rick Halsey. “Other nearby businesses are up due to the new customers. These complaints make no sense.”
“Occupy San Diego has created a welcoming space where people are provided basic medical assistance, food, and comfort regardless of housing status,” the press release continues. “Protesters had organized tents providing these services at an even greater depth prior to a series of police raids. Occupy San Diego calls upon our community to actively help address the homelessness issues at the Civic Center and in downtown San Diego.
"Occupy San Diego as a group is committed to nonviolence in word and deed and frowns upon actions like those that are claimed to have brought misfortune to these local businesses. Occupy San Diego will present donations to Centre City Coffee and Brooklyn Dogs as a symbol of peaceful cooperation with all parties at the Civic Center.”
“Another small coffee and sandwich shop, not much larger than the coffee cart or the hot dog cart, took a different approach,” said Ray Lutz, a Occupy San Diego Organizer.
“When the manager overheard his customers talking about certain electronic devices and tools that they needed, he decided to offer those devices and tools on one wall of the sandwich shop. Over time, by listening to his customers and meeting their needs, the sandwich shop became Fry's Electronics -- which still has a small coffee and sandwich shop reminiscent of its original roots. Success is simple: listen to your customers, and give them what they want.”
“Occupy San Diego would like to see these businesses operating again,” the release states. “The event by DeMaio only encourages them to remain closed, making the central square of the city even more uninviting to the public, sacrificing the conservative philosophy that the free market will self-select business operators, and instead embraces government intrusion and a “helping hand” that frequently does more harm than good.
"Instead of fighting against the Occupy movement, Mr. DeMaio should be endorsing it. He says he is a fiscal conservative who is interested in making the City work. What he appears to be missing is that the financial industry meltdown has affected the City of San Diego – and most other cities and local jurisdictions – just like any worker in the 99%. Money is short, and the primary reason is not because city workers, teachers, firefighters, police, and trash collectors are earning too much or have exorbitant retirements. It is because the 'too big to fail' banks failed to act responsibly and even participated in outright fraud and massive irregularities. If Mr. DeMaio wants to truly address these issues, he should be helping the Occupy movement and joining with our agenda to return our country from Wall Street and back to Main Street.”
Occupiers request donations of shoes, socks, tarps, jackets, towels, sleeping bags, sandbags, and warm food. Donations can be delivered to the east lawn of the Civic Center on Third Street between B and C Streets.
Be very afraid
Re: “Being neighborly” [“The Front Lines,” March 26]. I am one of the private businesses at the Civic Center and deal with the homeless on a daily basis. While there will always be good homeless and bad, I would say that most of what goes on down here is bad. On a daily basis, security or the police are called to the Center to deal with the violent behavior (stabbings, beatings, robberies), the drug and alcohol abuse and dealing (yes, they smoke pot, shoot up and deal right in the open).
I have had to call 911 and security so many times, it is ridiculous. I have been threatened for the last two months by a homeless man—just released from 20 years in prison for murder and who just stabbed a man in the public bathroom a couple months ago—because I refused him free coffee, and we are talking a 4-inch blade. He has more rights than me, and there is nothing I can do unless he harms me? We must be to work every morning in the dark and often leave in the dark. We fear for our safety daily. Yesterday, I had to call security to help me remove a very disturbed woman who became violent and was screaming and pounding her fists on my counter. The overwhelming smell of urine and feces is disgusting. Just another day in paradise for business owners in Downtown.
Each morning, the 100 or so homeless that had been sleeping there had to be rousted by security or the police and kicked out before the mayor or Mr. Aguirre and the other city employees arrived. I wonder how much this is costing the city? Believe me, if they had seen that mess, they would have been absolutely shocked, and they, too, would have feared for their safety, as we do.
Yes, I have complained, and I guess, as Mr. Aguirre puts it, these criminals have had to deal with my “wrath,” but they are breaking the law. Next time he comes through the Plaza, have him come by so I can point out the homeless man who sits there with his knife and stares at me everyday. You just never know when he may pull that knife out again and use it.
Linda Jenson, La Mesa