Jeff Smith noon, March 8
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- TJ from PB
The OSD Chronicles - Part 5
NOV 6 / NOV 10 - This was a period of reflection for me. I'd been at the site now for one month. What should my plans be? Was I a journalist or an Occupier? Why was I continuing to spend my precious few hours of free time, with this ragtag band of individuals gathered around the American flag, right outside the corridors of power that rule San Diego? I could get up and walk away from that flag right now and who would give a damn. Just another quitter.
I looked at those Stars and Stripes and thought of another time in my life. When I was a boy of six and the year was 1968. I was raised by my grandparents, who turned our living room into a polling place during election years. The setting up of the voting booths and laying out of voter registries was always a light hearted yet serious affair. My grandfather was a blue collar, cast iron foundry worker and dedicated union member who cherished the democratic process.
His dark complexion, Latino features and low status on the economic scale did not get him a lot of respect from local law enforcement. In those days the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department was pretty bad. If those armed white men with the crew cuts stopped you back then your name was Pancho or Jose even if iit wasn't. Because that was all they were going to call you and you better not complain. Many hard working, law abiding members of the Latino community in East Los Angeles viewed the LASD as cruel rascists who had no respect for people of color. On election night things were different.
Late at night after the polling booths had been shuttered, my grandfather would take a carefully handled box of ballots from the house to the car and drive to the old 3rd Street police station in East Los Angeles. One election night I asked if I could go. My grandmother said no because it was too late in the evening but my grandfather replied, "Let him come. So he can see how it works."
The drop off area within the station walls was marked with an American flag. When we drove up to the heavily armed police officers guarding the collection point for the ballot boxes coming in, our treatment was unbelievable. Those Sheriffs would "Yes Sir" and "Thank You Sir" the heck out of my grandfather. It made me so proud of him. Is that why I sit on these cold, hard concrete steps?
NOV 11 - This was the day that an event to help veterans was held in Civic Center Plaza or Freedom Plaza as the Occupiers call it. The group that was sponsoring the event agreed to let Occupy veterans have their own booth. It was my first experience with the 'young veterans' as I called them.
Occupy SD isn't one organization but rather a loosely knit coalition of groups with roughly similiar agendas. And I mean roughly. I call them tribes and two of those which continuously took the brunt of the SDPD assault on the OSD movement were the homeless and the rainbowers. These were the folks who sat on the steps the most. The ones in the faces of the powers that be. Sprinkled amongst the homeless are many veterans. Most of them are middle aged with a few younger guys mixed in. Thru them I came to know some of the 'non homeless' Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
These young men and women had been sent off to kill to further the wealth of a few and not to further democracy as they'd originally been told. These kids were smart enough to see the con and brave enough to do something about it. My grandfather used to say that, "Any idiot can start a war but it takes a genius to start a peace." These kids I met on that day had been sent by idots and returned to use their intelligence to further a peace movement. Gramps would have liked that.
The man who was sponsoring the event had arranged for a lunch truck to park outside the plaza on 3rd Street. The vendor was going to give out free hot dogs to any veteran who wanted one. I thought it was a wonderful thing to do. City Hall thought otherwise. The owner was chased away from the curbside location. I can't recall exactly the burocratic mumbo jumbo(permit?) used against the vendor but the end result was no food for homeless veterans. When the vendor quickly inquired if he could utilize the Ace parking lot across the street, he was told, it would require a $90.00 permit which would not be available until after the three day holiday. The truck departed with its free food and the homeless veterans stayed hungry. 'City Hell' had done its job again.
I watched the bitterness in the eyes of those young veterans and thought to myself how sad that such young faces had such old eyes.
NOV 12 / NOV 16 - These were the days of locked glass doors on the C Street side of the plaza and large orange colored, water filled barriers on 3rd Street. It was another SDPD tactic aimed at crushing the OSD movement. Lansdowne's forces were aided and abetted in their suppression of OSD by their ability to twist the interpretation of local ordinances like SD municipal code 54.0110(encroachment). This law was implemented to limit the placing of mobile trash dumpsters on city streets but was used to harass, ticket or arrest any Occupier who so much as set down their satchel or backpack. The SDPD took a law created for trash regulation and used it to help crush free speech in Freedom Plaza.
Nobody in City Hall ever stood up to defend democracy when Lansdowne was going fascist on OSD. Everybody in Freedom Plaza at the time knew that Mayor Sanders was a powerless lame duck and that the city council had no spine when it came to confronting Lansdowne.
Almost two months later, on January 11, 2012. The SD City Council would be given a golden oppurtunity to redeem themselves in the eyes of the people they serve. An activist named Martha Sullivan would submit a Free Speech Ballot Proposal aimed at revising SDMC 54.0110 (encroachment). She would be doing what they should have done in November. On 1-11-12 the SD City Council let down democracy again when they brushed off Sullivan's proposal.
NOV 18 - On this day one of the local Native American tribes was giving an award to some local politician. The group began setting up in the plaza for the upcoming 'grip and grin' event. it included a booth where they planned to sell Native American foods like fry bread. Coincidentally, a city health inspector just happened to be going by. He quickly shut down the vendor's stand. The tribe hadn't bought a permit. I spoke with one of the vendors as he was dismantling his booth. He told me they'd inquired about a permit. It would cost two hundred plus dollars and cover a 3 to 4 hour time period. We both agreed that it was a bit cost prohibitive. The end result was that the politician got his award and the vendor got the shaft. NOV 19/27 - It is the twenty third of November and I'm still sitting on these concrete steps beside the American flag with maybe a dozen Occupiers scattered about. Once again I'm feeling like a mad man chasing a dream. Unfortunately for me, there is no Cervantes to write my story. But that's ok. I have now seen enough of the Occupy movement and the reaction it has brought from 'the powers that be' to know we are engaged in a just cause. Sometimes I agree with Occupy tactics like bank transfer day and sometimes I don't like the port shut down. But I know the goal is justice for all. And that is and should always be, the American way. "Coffee's Ready, Gotta Go...!!!"