After our first night in Oakland my colleague and I heard of another protest that would be taking place a few days later in San Francisco. We quickly made plans for our trip out to the city in hopes of catching the same action that we saw in Oakland. This was not as easy for us seeing as how I was still in the middle of my winter semester and had work that evening. Getting close to Christmas and all, the restaurant was starting to get busy. Unfortunately this places sucks up more of my time than I would like it to but posting rants on a website no one has heard of doesn’t keep the lights on in my house. I pulled some stings, asked for favors and eventually got the night off. I called my colleague this time he came prepaired. We had water and boots plus trail mix, man that shit can save your life. Now this might not paint a pretty picture but my colleague was still uneasy about the evening. “We don’t want to get caught up in another mess,” he told me as we climbed into his Subaru Impreza, “I want this to be smooth.” I have to laugh looking back at the statement “I want this to be smooth.” Protests can turn to riots in the blink of an eye I mean how smooth can two men with cameras make that go. So we got out to Bart parked the car and hoped onto the train, the weather was predicted for light rain that night and I did not bring a cover for the camera so we were hoping for the best before the weather would get to crappy. The train stopped at Embarcadero station and we quickly ran up the stairs fed our tickets to the machine and ran out into the brisk November night. The first thing I noticed stepping out onto the street was the noise. Now San Francisco like almost every city is always noisy, impossible to find a moment of peace in all of the hustle. But this was a different kind of noise. There was a loud voice echoing through the streets coming from the Ferry Building a block away from us. The sound of a crowd cheering followed the voice as we drew closer to the mob of people massed in front of the Ferry Building. There was a woman with a bull horn speaking to the crowd, it looked like we had arrived right as she was finished speaking. But as soon as she stepped down another woman quickly picked up the bull horn and began speaking to the crowd. Now one thing I noticed about the crowd this evening was that it was predominantly white this is in stark contrast with Oakland two nights earlier. In Oakland the crowd and people from all races and most walks of life together, but this I don’t know, I guess you might call it a yuppie protest. But I don’t want to diminish those that were there for the right reasons but it seemed as though it was the rich young white kids of San Francisco that want to have a reason to stand for something even if they have never felt a taser in their back. They wanted a reason to be part of the movement even if those that were affected were not speaking at this rally. Regardless there was still a shit load of people, and they planned to have a peaceful march into the heart of the city. After the last speech the march began. The crowd chanted loudly as the crossed the park and walked into the street. I positioned myself in front of the march along with my colleague and began snapping photos. There were other journalist’s and photographers, and some fucker from big wig media walking with a microphone and a spot light. Its unfortunate that the media gives up quickly during the marches, if no one is breaking shit it’s not news worthy. That paints a very one sided image of the protests and makes it seem like all they want to do is riot. Regardless the march worked its way up towards Union Square, where they planned to disrupt the Christmas tree lightning ceremony and link up with another protest. As we drew closer to union square my colleague and I were stopped by a group of three young white men, looked like they were in college maybe sophomores. None of them taller than me but they were definitely larger, wearing sweatshirts and bandannas around their necks, it was laughable that they thought they looked intimidating. They all had these burly beards and they stood directly in front of me and my colleague unwilling to let us continue with the march. “Hey fuckers,” they yelled at us, “we don’t want you taking pictures of all of us, are you even asking any of these people!? Is that google glass? Really you’re such a piece of shit.” Reminder that my colleague was wearing glass again, so that we could live stream the event. Obviously these men did not understand that they were in a public space, let alone at a fucking protest! Did they really think no one was going to be taking pictures of them! If you don’t want your face seen put on the fucking bandanna you brought! People. I looked at them as I tried to continue walking, “look we are doing our jobs so let us just get on with it.” I pushed between the three men and continued walking, my colleague quickly followed behind me. “If we see you again I’m knocking that shit off your face,” one of them yelled at us, I just rolled my eyes trying to focus on the protest, like I said yuppies, this crowd had a whole different feel than Oakland. I didn’t like it. At this point we were to far from the front to actually catch up with the protest so we ran up a few blocks and came down a side street to rendezvous with the march. As we approached Union Square there was already a stand off in progress. Some of the protesters in front had pulled down the barricades set up by the police. And it stayed this way for a few tense moments, the protesters shouting at the police and the police trying to figure out how to pull this barricade back into place. One of the protesters, this young black man, one of the few in the protest, in a grey hoodie, turned a sign he was holding to the police, it read “Danger police in area (you have been warned).” I guess the cop wasn’t really to happy about that because he tried to quickly snatch it out of this mans hands. That caused a stir and the protesters quickly began shouting at the police. In seconds the police lifted up the barricade and took a ready stance. Amazingly behind all of this was a tree lighting ceremony. It was to surreal. It seemed like a moment out of a movie, these rich posh San Franciscans were walking around with their children trying to enjoy the holiday season but the lower class was rising up and demonstrating at their door step. Parents walking by with their kids greeting the police officers having their children shake the hands of these men. But when they crossed the protesters they wouldn’t even look them in the eye. They rushed by them so that they would not get caught up in the mess, but this was all just to unreal. The stand off lasted for more than 10 minutes while my colleague and I tried to work our way around to the other side where the tree lighting ceremony was taking place. I climbed on top of a line of trash cans attempting to get a better shot of the face off. As I looked down I saw the other protest working its way towards the ceremony.
Police were now blocked in on two different sides and it looked as if this was about to go down. All that was running through my mind was, they are about to start clubbing people like frightened animals in a cage. They had been backed into a corner and now fighting their way out looked like the only option. But to my surprise the protesters began to back away from the ceremony, each group moving down the street they had come up, moving towards Market street. I jumped down from the trash cans and moved towards the police line.
“What’s that on your face?” My colleague and I both looked over to one of the officers who was looking directly at both of us. “What?” My colleague said. “That that thing on your face, is it google glass?” My colleague was shocked that the cop would even talk to us. “Uh yeah,” he said as the cop took a step out of line closer to us. “That is really cool, we need those, it records video right?” The officer took off his face mask as he came closer to us. “Yeah we are actually live streaming this right now,” my colleague said the the cop. “Yeah man, we really need these on the force, would help prove what happens rather than eye witness accounts,” the cop smiled and waved at my friends face,”hello America,” he said. We both chuckled, “have a safe night,” he told us and we took off after the protest.
We weren’t far behind and as we came closer I saw a man take a crowbar out from his back pack and try to smash the window of a department store. He was unsuccessful but the noise it made was like a bullet in my ear. Some of the protesters cheered as the man ran to a street lamp and knocked out the glass and bulb. The women working inside cowered behind the door trying to pull down the metal gate for protection, can you blame them? Finally we had made it to Market street.
There was another stand off taking place, this time in the middle of Market street. Police had again blocked themselves in as protesters stood on either side of them. We were now in front of the Powell Bart station and it didn’t seem like we were going to move any time soon. Protesters stood and pointed at police while shouting “Shame on you.” My colleague and I tried to make our way to the front of the protest and then worked are way around the Powell Bart station and to the other side.
At this point I was fucking starving, the trail mix wasn’t cutting it and I needed sustenance. Subway, closest thing and shit I can always eat and sandwich while watching a protest. We both walked inside and ordered food, since we didn’t have cash we also had to buy four bottles of water to meet the minimum charge for a credit card. I laughed, business expense I thought. Suddenly we heard sirens outside and I quickly snatched all my food and ran out the door. The police had parted ways and allowed both of the protests to meet on another and let it continue towards Civic Center Plaza.
I stuffed the food and waters into my bag, gonna have to eat later and we jogged to the front of the protest. I began trying to talk to some of the protesters attempting to get interviews while walking however no one was willing to talk. They all told me to either “fuck off” or “get that shit out of my face I don’t want to be on camera.” The march continued deeper into San Francisco before we made it to a freeway on ramp. Some of the protesters began shouting “Take the freeway!” and a mad dash began.
Protesters began running towards the on ramp where a police line had already formed. These cops were different than the ones at Union Square. These guys were ready to do battle, they had SWAT gear and vehicles, not to mention the tear gas canisters I saw hanging from their belts. I was thinking this is it, the battle will begin, I raced ahead to give myself a good position to film and when I turned around I realized the protesters were no longer coming this way. Instead they grouped at the intersection before the on ramp and shouted at some of the police that were not standing in formation.
I ran back to the group and began snapping photos, I noticed one of the bearded college kids that had yelled at us earlier getting up in a cops face. I walked over and snapped a few photos, this fucker literally stopped yelling at the cop and turned to me. “Get the fuck outta here,” he yelled as he pushed past the cop and approached me. “I saw your faggot friend earlier we don’t need you documenting us!” I rolled my eyes at him, “I’m doing my job,” I told him. “Well go do your job somewhere else we don’t need you here.” and with that he walked off, I found my colleague standing on the corner recording the group. I walked over to him and he was just laughing, “saw the whole thing,” he told me. “What a dick,” I laughed.
The protest began moving again and we worked are way back towards the front. The police cars started following slowly behind the protesters and I knew we were walking into a trap. Ahead of us I saw a line of cops standing in a ready formation, this was the end of the line.
The protesters rushed some of the officers and I stepped to the side to begin taking photos, when I looked back up from my camera I realized we were now on the wrong side of the police line, fuck. There was another media crew there, I think ABC, they had a big camera and were chasing behind the police trying to film them kenneling the protesters. “Get the fuck back, I said get back,” I looked up and a motorcycle cop was coming straight at me, “get on the fucking sidewalk,” he was shouting at me. I looked around to make sure he was shouting at me and not someone else. “You I said get the fuck back,” he pointed at me and got off his bike, “are you def?”
I stood up and started back tracking, I don’t need some uppity cop breaking my camera. “Just doing my job,” I told him. “I don’t fucking care.” what a great response from a peace officer. I walked back to the side walk and saw something flying out of the air. He hit the ground right in front of the bike cop and nailed my colleague in the leg. “FUCK,” I heard him yell and I turned around to see what hit him.
The top of a bed post was laying in the middle of the street in front of us. A bed post! Who the fuck brings a bed post to a protest! Where did they even get that from. “God damn, my fucking leg.”
“Don’t be a pussy,” I told him “You aren’t going to die.”
He was not amused, when we finally stood up there was no more protesters. The street was filled with police and squad cars all of them shouting at media and bystanders, “It is time for all of you to go home, anyone crossing the police line will be arrested.”
We ran down the block hoping to make our way ahead of the police line and link back up with the protesters. At this point it was beginning to rain softly. I covered my camera as we raced down the street. We came across a few stragglers who began following us towards where we thought the protesters might be. I checked my twitter and saw that the protest had worked itself a few miles from where we were. It was going to be almost impossible for us to catch up if we didn’t start running now. I told my colleague to pick up the pace as we ran towards 24th street.
We soon came to a blockade set up by police and the fucking Homeland Security! We snapped a few more photos before taking off towards Bart.
One our way to Bart we ended up talking to some of the locals. They all laughed at the Press hats we were wearing but told me “respect dog, that shit will get the job done.” We made it to the Bart station and that was the end of night two. The ride home wasn’t as long as I thought and it was still raining on the other side of the Berkeley hills so we took the back roads home.