SF Food Not Bombs: 28 arrested protesting homeless street-sweeps

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 21 Jul 1998 13:31:30 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  CC Replies to FOOD NOT BOMBS - SAN FRANCISCO <sffnb@iww.org>


  On Bastille Day, 14 July 1998, 28 FNB ( Food Not Bombs ) and homeless
activists were arrested in San Francisco's United Nations Plaza during a
non-violent, direct-action demonstration that sought to reclaim public
space and parks which are increasingly being made inaccessible to homeless
people. The protest was primarily organized by FNB-San Francisco and was
also supported and attended by people from approximately 20 other FNB
groups, as well as representatives of various other social justice
organizations such as ACT-UP - San Francisco ( Aids Coalition To Unleash
Power ), The Coalition on Homelessness, FIAN ( FoodFirst Information and
Action Network ), IWW ( Industrial Workers of the World ) and SFLR
( San Francisco Liberation Radio ). The direct-action protest was the
climatic culmination of the FNB Western Regional Gathering of July 10th
to the 14th, which was held in San Francisco. The FNB Western Regional
Gathering was attended by over 70 FNB members from 20 different FNB
groups in the USA and Canada.

  Speakers from FNB groups in Chicago and the California communities of
Riverside, San Jose, San Francisco and Whittier addressed the
approximately 150 by-standers and demonstrators that had assembled in the
United Nations Plaza for the noon-time event. FNB served a free vegetarian
meal to the public while the speakers explained how Corporate sponsored
" Business Improvement Districts ", gentrification, urban "renewal"
projects and government directed police actions and law enforcement
campaigns against homeless people's public sleeping, camping and begging,
are becoming a war against the poor and homeless. A speaker from FIAN also
explained how the elimination of the USA's Federal Welfare programs,
being done under the disguise of " Welfare Reform ", was not only
intensifying the war on the poor, but was also a clear violation of
international human rights treaties such as the United Nations' UDHR
( Universal Declaration of Humna Rights ) and the ICESCR ( International
Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ). FNB is presently
working with FIAN on an Economic Human Rights Campaign to persuade the
US Senate to ratify the ICESCR. The start of the Economic Human Rights
Campaign has been timed to coincided with this years' 50th anniversary
of the signing of the UDHR. The speaker from SFLR discussed how the US
Federal government's continuing prosecution and persecution of unlicensed,
micro-powered, pirate radio stations is censoring independent and
alternative journalists.

  The closing speakers then addressed the most physically immediate and
visible issue of the San Francisco City Government's systematic
privatization of public spaces and redesigning of public parks to make
them inaccessable and inhospitable to homeless people. Almost a year
earlier, San Francisco DPW ( Department of Public Works ) workers had
placed metal barricades along the periphery of all of the small parks and
grassy embankments in the United Nations Plaza. The barricades were
placed under the initial pretext of protecting newly planted grass and
trees, but have since been left in place to deny homeless people easy
access to the park. Similar DPW programs of " park renovation " have
occurred in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park and in Union Square. DPW
workers have fenced-off large portions of parks that were the homeless
peoples' homes and have reconstructed park benches so that it is
impossible to recline or sleep on them. The final speakers urged the
people present at the demonstration to take action to reclaim public
space, and within a few minutes, energetic groups of activists quickly
proceeded to dismantle the DPW fencing along the grassy embankment at the
United Nations Plaza BART subway station entrance. Demonstrators then
walked onto the grass to play, picnic, sing and chat political slogans.
About a dozen exuberant demonstrators crossed over to the other side of
the United Nations Plaza and proceed to liberate another fenced-off grassy
area. At this point, there was a massive and violent police response to
what was a peaceful, direct-action, civil-disobedience demonstration.

  A total of 40 police vans and cars drove into and surrounded the UN
Plaza area. Approximately 70 to 80 San Francisco City Police and US
Federal Police, many of them in riot gear, arrived to arrest the
demonstrators. At least one helicopter, which appeared to be a police
aircraft, flew over the UN Plaza area during the demonstration. The police
threaten many of the peaceful protesters and swung their battons at them.
One police officer with a batton struck a disabled, wheelchair-bound
activist and quickly swung again, but missed and hit a barricade with
such force that it shattered the batton into at least two pieces. The
police arrested all of the protesters that sat on the grass and even
violently pulled an activist out of a tree. Several demonstrators
suffered cuts and bruises from the brutal police action. One woman had her
neck twisted by the police during her arrest, and FNB-San Francisco
activist Jeff Larson was sat upon by at least four police officers and
repeatedly subjected to numerous twists of his wrists, arms and legs.
Jeff was subjected to " pain compliance holds " even when he was
completely cooperating with the arresting police officers.

  A total of 28 FNB and homeless activists were taken into police custody
within 90 minutes of the arrival of the police. Even before all of the
arrests were completed, DPW workers were brought in to reposition the DPW
barricades and secure all of the grassy areas in UN Plaza. The protesters
were charged with failure to leave the scene of a riot and with resisting
a police officer. Most of the protesters were released within 9 hours of
their arrest and are scheduled to appear in San Francisco Municipal Court
on 31 August 1998.

  For additional information about FNB - San Francisco:

  P.O. Box 40485
  San Francisco, California 94140

  Phone:  +1-650-985-7087

  E-mail: < sffnb@iww.org >

  Webpage:< http://webcom.com/peace >

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