Night of the Barricades
updated with pictures & links 9:30am
On the night of October 6th San Francisco Police attacked the Occupy SF encampment at the Federal Building on Market and Drum. After a day in which 800 people marched through downtown San Francisco in solidarity with the occupation of Wall Street in New York and elsewhere around the country, hundreds gathered at the site of the occupation. However by evening the police had administered an eviction notice to the occupiers claiming that the police would move in at midnight alongside the Department of Public Works to clear the plaza. Roughly around 10pm the police began to gather a block away from the occupation. Word circulated quickly and as both the occupiers and the police prepared roughly 150 people assembled at the occupation. After a few hours of waiting, debate, and nervous conversations within the occupation the police finally made their first move. Marching down the street, adorned with helmets and batons, the police escorted a line of Department of Public Works Vehicles. Standing between the occupiers and the living spaces that had been created since the occupations’ beginning, Department of Public Works workers were then forced to begin eradicating the space of any materials related to the occupation. The trucks were quickly filled with the same rapidity as the mood in the air began to intensify.
Almost spontaneously a large wooden pallet that the vehicles had not yet managed to collect was brought in front of one of the trucks. Immediately others began to follow bringing bodies and all material left behind in the encampment and surrounded the police and Department of Public Works vehicles. People grabbed anything they could find – garbage cans, street signs, cones and even the police’s own metal barricades to prevent the trucks from leaving as well as corner the police. While the police had tried to encircle and intimidate the occupation those there quickly used the opportunity to encircle and intimidate the police. As the SFPD closed in on the trucks standing off with what was now hundreds of people on market street and beautifully constructed barricades, they began to make way for the vehicles to leave. This created a series of small scuffles. Eventually the vehicles left and the barricades stood proudly on market street between the starry twilight of 230am and the confused fright of the SFPD.
The night was an incredibly powerful reflection of not only what is possible but the emergent potential of the Occupy movement. After the police announced that the occupation was going to be raided the occupiers began to decide what to do. The conversation was disparate, timid and unstable. This was directly caused by a few dominant voices controlling a decision making process in a situation that needed immediate attention. As the police came in this timidity, instability and disparity disappeared as all collectively participated in activity that reflected the needs of the immediate situation. No longer was the conversation dominated, but all voices flourished in the streets. People also held together and refused to be the targets of police violence. Instead people collectively resisted the attacks by the police by directly interfering with their ability to function as police by constructing barricades. Their antagonism towards the police was a direct reflection of the immediate goal of responding to a police raid. This act of self-defense was also an offensive direct action and strengthened both the solidarity amongst the participants and the potential for antagonistic expansion.
If these occupations are to both survive and continue they must be protected from the police by any means necessary.
As the barricades multiply almost everywhere, though within a limited perimeter, the security forces receive reinforcements from units that had until then been positioned outside the Latin Quarter and close down the area, which with each passing minute takes on an insurrectional air. - Le Monde, May 12-13, 1968