Dubbed Occupy Wall Street West, a second wave of protests against banks and corporations hits the streets today in The City’s Financial District.
Click on the photo at right to see a map of Friday's scheduled protests.
The dozens of planned protests will be Occupy’s largest presence in San Francisco since its sprawling downtown tent cities were raided by police in December. But not everyone affiliated with the earlier Occupy SF protests is fully endorsing today’s mass demonstrations.
Robb Benson, an original member and treasurer of Occupy SF, had a brief run-in on Wednesday with Occupy Wall Street West organizers — which include several union representatives — during a news conference to announce today’s mass action. Benson said while labor groups originally told Occupiers they just wanted to help, it now seems as if they are taking the reins — and the power — of the Occupy moniker.
The Occupy Wall Street West group is technically a subset “working group” of the larger Occupy SF effort, but Benson said some Occupiers are growing skeptical of the fact that the subgroup is raising its own money, setting new priorities and changing decision-making methods. Since its inception in September, the Occupy movement has espoused a leaderless and nonhierarchal structure that requires unanimity for all official decisions.
“I’m not trying to start a war here, but I don’t think Occupy is a union movement,” Benson said. “Everyone is included, of course, but I don’t think that’s our major focus.”
Benson asked organizers at Wednesday’s news conference whether labor groups were planning a “hostile takeover” of the movement. One organizer told him that’s not what is happening.
Lisa Guide, an organizer of the news conference, declined to comment on the spat when contacted later Wednesday.
Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, said earlier this week that his group helped to organize today’s events because “it’s our members getting thrown out of homes, it’s our members losing jobs.” Paulson added that Occupy is entering a “protest phase” that’s less focused on establishing urban camps.
Benson, who plans to attend today’s events, said he’s willing to give the new push a chance. But he feels Occupy Wall Street West has shown contempt about the first iteration of Occupy SF and its general assembly meetings, which involve unorthodox hand gestures and require all decision-making to be done by consensus.
“People who go to their meetings see them making fun of the general assembly,” Benson said. “There seems to be some condescension there.”
SF Examiner staff writers Sarah Gantz and Mike Koozmin contributed to this report.