Susan Luzzaro 9:45 p.m., June 18
Several hundred members of the Occupy San Diego movement gathered around 11 a.m. at the western edge of Balboa Park near Marston Point in anticipation of a noon rally and 1 p.m. march to “re-take the Civic Center.” The march is in solidarity with 951 others across the globe also occurring today.
An open microphone, which has become a staple of the movement, was once again available to anyone with a desire to be heard. Officially introduced speakers included those from nursing groups, Veterans for Peace, a council to foster relations between the Islamic and labor communities, and the International Socialist Organization, among others.
Though each touched on a different cause that attracted their supporters to the Occupy movement, recurring themes of money corrupting government and diminishing opportunity for the lower and middle classes were repeated by most speakers.
Miguel, a student and organizer at City College, lamented what he sees as misplaced priorities, with continued war spending in the face of class cuts of 30% after multiple recent tuition increases. “It’s more profitable to bomb someone who looks like me than to put a book in my hand.”
The Veterans for Peace representative reported on the success of another occupation in Washington, D.C. Two groups are occupying there, one with a four month permit (most occupations in the country have not obtained or applied for permits) and another with explicit endorsement of the mayor, who promises action will not be taken to remove peaceful demonstrators.
About a dozen police stood back and watched the demonstration from the back of the crowd, with two more stationed at the hillside above and another three officers, along with several highway patrolmen, further south. Occupier reaction to the police, as usual, was mixed. One open mic speaker garnered cheers when giving thanks to “our brothers in blue, San Diego’s finest.” He reminded the crowd that police are middle class union members who have the very kind of job stability and benefits the rest of the 99% seek.
Jorge, representing the International Socialist Organization, was more militant when he spoke later. “Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, it is us against them!” he repeated in reference to the officers on site. These statements gathered about the same positive reaction as the previous ones in support of police. He concluded by leading the crowd in an enthusiastic chant of “Gay, straight, black, white – same struggle, same fight!”
Adding fire to the debate, Police Chief William Lansdowne was captured on video yesterday commenting on what he perceived as light treatment of the protestors. “I tell you what, I remember back in the sixties we would’ve waded into that with sticks and clubs . . . that’s exactly what would’ve happened.”
As the rally’s conclusion, the crowd marched en masse into the street toward downtown, causing officers to spring into action providing crowd control and shutting down southbound traffic on 6th Avenue. The crowd, still gathered at the Civic Center as of this writing, will march back to Balboa Park’s World Beat Center around 4 p.m.