Thursday, October 6, 2011

Deoccupation by attrition

SFPD reportedly took the Occupy SF demonstrators' tents and sleeping bags last night. When the police were beginning to bear down, the demonstrators put out a call on #OccupySF to the public to express concern. I was one of, apparently, many who called. The officer on the line at Southern Station was unfailingly polite but also clearly busy with other calls. He was very much aware that the station's phone number had "been tweeted." As he got me to admit, it's true SFPD is better than many police forces when it comes to crowd control.

But --

The demonstrators report the police really did take all of their camping gear, even, they say, homeless people's possessions. And we were between rainstorms at the time. We had torrential rain all the earlier part of this morning after daybreak. Also, briefly, hailstones.

Taking people's property is a big problem. It will be a bigger problem, and a substantial violation of rights, if the stuff is not returned. Ordinarily, property picked up from the street should be stored for claiming at DPW. In the past (5-7 years ago and more) homeless people's property, on the happy occasions when it wasn't just thrown away, was held at the big maintenance yard on Cesar Chavez near the corner of Evans. I don't know if that is still the policy.

A weensy part of me btw feels perversely cheered that middle-class demonstrators are getting a taste of SFPD/DPW "property sweeps." These same kinds of property sweeps are a rarely remarked mainstay of San Francisco anti-homeless harassment. Now perhaps they will count as unfair.

[Update: much better account here from the SF Bay Guardian. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the new sit-lie ordinance was among laws the police cited in ordering the demonstrators to break camp.]

[Update 10/7/11: Via BoingBoing, protesters' latest (overwritten) posting includes a note about where to claim property and, yes, it's that DPW yard on Cesar Chavez, same as always. I really hope the middle-class people who go down there and find their property missing or rain-wet or jumbled with trash will connect their own experiences with the ostensibly apolitical treatment that poor people get all the time.]

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