Well this was a fun one. The march started at the Justin Herman Plaza, right by the Occupy SF encampment, and it was destined towards the Financial district. Wherever the crowd went, people working in their offices, shops and restaurants would come out and take pictures of the growing crowd. I read some estimates putting the crowd at around 400 in the beginning, and it looked to me like it grew up to over 1000.
I thought this would be just another Occupy protest, but an inner circle of organizers kept a surprise to themselves: they planned to arrive at Bank of America on California Street and take over. Protesters entered the bank in droves with their drums, signs, backpacks, dogs and all the other assorted protest gear. They even pitched up a tent inside there. Other than a girl writing the words “greed” and “shame” with chalk on metal file cabinets, and dozens of political fliers strewn through the place, there was really no vandalism or destruction done by the protesters inside the bank. And they did completely annihilate all the complimentary lollypops in the bank lobby.
They came in yelling “shame!” and wagging their finger energetically at the bank tellers. When I entered the bank, there was only one employee still at his post, looking extremely uncomfortable. Others sort of huddled behind the main counter while the protesters climbed on furniture, crowded the place, effectively turning it into a party spot.
I don’t know why this one man would stay long after the other employees were hanging out by a secured room behind the counters. Perhaps it is part of his responsibility, I’m not sure. As the last employee there, he suffered the blunt of the yelling, finger wagging and getting his picture taken by all kinds of photojournalists. He seemed like he was just trying to shut it all out, unsuccessfully. It occurred to me to ask for his name and occupation, to see if he would respond, since other than yelling at him, I didn’t notice anyone actually trying to talk to him. He had removed his nametag and was now holding it in his hand. I asked him what was his name and his job at the bank. He didn’t want to speak a single word, but he pointed me towards a stack of his business cards, so I took one. He is Luciano Trentoni, Assistant Vice President and Financial Solutions Advisor.
P rotesters took advantage of the ample availability of pens and post-it notes, and decided to leave messages on the bank tellers desks and computers.
The one security guard remained at his post, but he was not enough to keep the crowd under control. After a while, rumors started within the crowd inside the bank that people might start getting arrested soon. I asked the security guard if “something bad” was about to happen. “All I can tell you is we want you guys out of here, and police are on their way.” OK then.
I went back into the crowd to get a few more shots and people were passing around the phone number for a lawyers guild. Just as I was about to write it down on my hand, about a dozen cops came into the bank, and I dropped my pen. I wasn’t sure if they were going to straight up start arresting people left and right, so I went towards the exit holding my hands out (not up, I’m not that much of a geek!) and got out of the way.
People quieted down and sat on the floor, but nobody moved. Press took their posts behind the protesters, but I didn’t want to wedge myself between the crowd of protesters and the glass wall, so I took a vantage point near the exit. But when cops entered they just stood in a row and didn’t do much else for almost an hour.
Cops separated the press from the protesters. One kid stood out from the press crowd. He was the youngest, skinniest, most rosie cheeked kid, a rookie. The cops went for him first, asked for his press pass and he didn’t have one, so they told him if he didn’t leave they would have to arrest him. I realized I didn’t have my pass with me so I got out before I got arrested (hey, peeps at the office were waiting for photos to arrive on deadline, can’t do that from jail!). I realized after that guy left, I was now the youngest looking, physically smallest of the press crowd, so I knew if they were going to pick on someone else next, it would be me. So I decided to go get out before that happened.
Outside the bank, the crowd stayed strong while some others continued marching down Market Street. Outside Bank of America, police presence was strong, in riot gear, two vans and one bus awaiting to be filled with arrested bank occupiers.