Bart Mendoza 5 a.m., Dec. 8
**OCT 16/OCT 27 - These were the days that were the nicest and maybe the worst. Some of the best, altruistic citizens of San Diego were here, along with just enough crack pots to keep the SDPD irritated and unfairly blaming everyone. This was without a doubt one of the most shameful of the acts committed by the powers that rule San Diego. Painting the movement with one broad swath of anti-patriotism and making themselves the defenders of democracy. By far the majority of Occupiers were normal people who were just fed up with the system as it exists. The media early on replayed a clip of a young man and a dog tearing at an American flag colored handkerchief. That 'troublemaker' was later chased out of the camp after a string of incidents. Some of the Occupiers were kids, that in the 60's, would have been called hippies and participated in sits-ins alongside militant college students. I've come to recognize the grinning young man in a brown pancho who sits and strums his acoustic guitar. As well as the impish gal with the two little dogs, a grey terrier named Pepper and an off white chihuahua named Savage. But mostly I watched the political theater being played out. A long haired kid in shades and bandana was antagonizing cops. Some protestors shouted their opinions or read from some manifesto they'd written. Others strolled with pickets. The gamut ran from what i call the liberal inteligencia trying to further their ideology to self promoters trying to further their pocketbooks. In between were just plain simple folks who wanted to see this country become a better place. I found myself gravitating toward these individuals. It was a complicated stew indeed that simmered at civic center plaza during the days of the Occupy movement. The city employees for the most part, at least those in the plaza area, seemed to be impartial on the subject. I'm speaking of those who do the manual labor of physically cleaning the place up. At least that is what I felt until one day I spoke with a green uniformed person picking up the trash around the cement tables. "What do you think of all this?" I casually said. "If you're with the media, I can't say anything," came the reply. "You're allowed to have an opinion aren't you?" I said trying to cover my tiny notebook with the sandwich I was eating and look as non media as possible. "I think it's a good thing but I can't say anything." Telling me you can't say anything is telling me a lot. A whole lot. Big Brother was putting its heavy hand on the shoulder of everyone that it could reach. As the movement continued I heard that city employees began grumbling about the additional headaches (such as removing the chalk quotes from the plaza floor) caused by the occupation. I overheard one ID wearing city worker say that if it was up to him he'd just, 'beat the crap out of all the riff raff and be done with it.'A reliable source told me that something similiar was said more than once in the halls of power that tower above the plaza. I would assume that would include the towering bank buildings down B Street that form what I call "The Greed Canyon." OCT 28 - It is the morning after the second raid. The plaza is empty of Occupy SD members. The raid took place in the early morning hours with very little press coverage. "Had the media been informed that the raid was going down," I asked an officer who stood nearby. "Yeah, they knew," he said with a grin. Most of the SDPD stand in clusters and engage in rounds of verbal backslapping. Around 9am I walk over to the 3rd street side of the plaza and watch as an officer guards the parking spaces for the area designated 'media row.' Awhile later i would overhear several television reporters and their crews, joking about the way the SDPD had manhandled the peaceful occupiers. From the beginning most of the Occupy people were mistrustful of the mainstream media. They often gave the reporters a hard time. This caused the reporters to react very unprofessionally and take sides against the protesters. I listened as they mocked occupiers who they'd interviewed over the past few days and made it abundantly clear that they were not capable of providing an impartial assessment of the historical event that was unfolding before their eyes. On this morning, October 28, 2011, I completely lost what little faith I'd had in San Diego's local news stations. The property of the occupiers was piled into one large mass. I recognized an item or two of articles. I was sure I recognized the guitar of the kid with the pancho and took out my camera phone. A list of faces immediately started scrolling through my head as I thought of who I would seek out to hear their story. By this time, I'd come to realize that with the possible exception of KPBS, the local television media was not giving an impartial view of unfolding events to the citizens of San Diego. They were not doing they're job. The public was just getting regurgitated police reports. Living part time in Tijuana I am used to this type of reporting. It's what most local papers do and call it reporting news. That's because investigative journalism in Mexico can get you killed. Investigative journalism in San Diego will get you marginalized from the halls of power and hence the source of your stories. Newspapers have been compromised on both sides of the Wall of Shame these days. I had barely snapped several photos when an officer told me that I was interfering with city workers in their clean up. I'd considered that before going near the pile. As far as I could tell the clean up had already occurred. All that was left was the loading and the hauling of it away. But the few workers that I saw standing around looked more like they were resting after the intial clean up than preparing to load and haul. I strolled off the plaza area and stood on the walkway railing between the fountain and the pile of property. Within moments, the same officer came charging up to me and told me to, "Leave! Go now!" It was ok for me to stand around over on 3rd St (media row) doing nothing but try and tell a human interest story and the fascists act. I grew furious, started walking away, then turned to snap a quick shot of him as I left. "Those who wear rapiers fear the goose quills," I quoted the Bard to myself. Snarling the only line I know from Hamlet didn't make me feel any better. I hadn't been here very long this morning but already I wanted to howl out loud in an eruption of ink and soul. My gut was telling me what later interviews would confirm. It could have been handled better. For the nest couple of days I hung out on the periphery of the plaza and spoke with eyewitnessess to the second raid. From these accounts I reached two conclusions. Number One - The SDPD used too much force and Number Two - The SD mainstream media looked the other way. One morning I arrived at the plaza and saw several men clustered around an American flag. The flag was duct taped to the central handrail that leads up the concrete steps in front of the civic center plaza. They are hard steps that have been made harder by the actions of the San Diego political hierarchy. I walked up to the steps and asked them if they were all that was left of Occupy SD. One fellow said, "They were all that was left in the plaza. That on the grassy strip along 3rd St were the remnants of the Occupy campers. That same man then told me that the reason he was standing beside the flag was because , 'he'd arrived shortly after the raid and saw a veteran named Chris standing alongside the Stars and Stripes. Chris said he was planting the flag in solidarity with the Occupiers. The flag symbolized the tents pitched by Americans upon the plaza. He vowed to stand watch all night. The man told Chris that he was going home. In the morning he would return and if Chris was still guarding the American flag then he would relieve him. The man returned, relieved Chris, I showed up a day or two later and we started 'flag watch.' I say we because after I heard the story of how the flag came to be at its location in Freedom Plaza, I bought a couple of newspapers, cup of coffee and sat down to Occupy. As I saw it, the tents had been put up by Americans trying to make a statement and torn down by other Americans making a statement of their own. I figured that veteran named Chris was making his own, personal statement. I respected him for that. So much so that I took a stand alongside our symbol of democracy. And so that was how I went from being a freelance journalist who was trying to make a quick buck with an Occupy story to an Occupier who would spend more money on coffee and cigarettes for his companeros than your average rebel ever dreamed of. "Coffee's Ready, Gotta Go...!!!"