Despite losing the battle for Market Street, Occupy SF protesters have vowed to continue the war against economic inequality. But with winter on its way, the residents of Justin Herman Plaza may be facing a more persistent foe than the Police Department.
The grassy areas of Justin Herman Plaza were muddy Monday, and the bocce ball courts had become shallow pools of dirty rainwater. Some campers struggled to move their tents to higher ground, as others tried to dry their bedding in the weak afternoon sun.
“People are cold and wet,” said Gene Doherty of the Occupy SF communications team. “A number of people have had to go home for a few nights, but they’ll be back.”
A 31-year-old camper who identified himself as Xakkula tied plastic bags over his feet to keep them dry inside his sopping-wet shoes. He said he had been fighting a cold for two weeks.
“Some people are helping out here, and they have a nice, warm home to go to,” said Xakkula, who traveled here from Jacksonville, Fla. “People who are actually camped out here and don’t have that option have it a lot harder. It’s up and down.”
The campers have increasingly come to rely on supporters who do not spend the night at Justin Herman Plaza. One such person is Susan Green, 61, a teacher who cooks food for Occupy SF in her home kitchen.
“This is what I can do,” Green said as she dished out vegetarian stew to a crowd of Occupy protesters and homeless people. “There’s just such a need. There are some people who are working and have their jobs and come after work, and people who have given up their jobs because it’s so important.”
With Thanksgiving approaching, some occupiers acknowledged that many of protesters might leave town for the weekend, a fact that could make the camp more vulnerable to a police raid that could happen this week.
While many campers now consider themselves residents of the plaza, Doherty said, “certainly we understand and know that people will be going home as well.”
But Kris Amber, 24, said she hopes to soldier on.
“I don’t have a home, so if we get raided, I’ll sleep wherever I can, “Amber said. “We came from Portland, which is way, way colder. It’s just hard to sleep sometimes.”
How are Occupy SF partisans coping with the cold, wet weather and looming threat of police raids?
“People are galvanized by adversity. We’re struggling against the economic system, we’re struggling against the weather. We’ve got to work together, and it’s just one more obstacle to overcome.”
— Justin Valone, 31
“I’m here to hold on to the front line and occupy this space. Normally I’m peaceful, but some warrior spirit has awakened in me.”
— Zoey Otranto, 23
“The rain makes it difficult, and it’s been getting colder. I’ve been sick for two weeks. It’s probably staying that way, because my feet are getting cold because I can’t keep them dry.”
— Xakkula, 31