Occupation at Hibernia Bank, San Francisco

January 21, 2010

From Occupy CA:
Today, several students from Universities across the state attempted to occupy the Hibernia National Bank building in San Francisco. This building which has remained empty for years was recently sold for almost 3 million dollars in a neighborhood where thousands live without homes and hundreds die each year while lacking shelter.  This space has been left empty because of the profit motive – placing the surplus value that could be acquired over the possible human needs that space could and should have fulfilled. We had planned on taking this space and holding it until later in the afternoon, when a march against homelessness and affordable housing would end in a rally nearby. We wished to take an action that would bridge the various movements that are taking shape from the growing discontent in this country and found it logical that the tactic of occupation be used to illustrate the nonsensical logic that dictates how and who uses space.

After a few hours of being in the building, a motion sensor alarm alerted the building owner who then called the police. As we sat in a room deciding how we should proceed the lights in the building suddenly switched on. We began to hear footsteps and voices travelling up from the stairs and initially attempted to hide in one of the rooms. After we realized that there would be no escape and no possibility of adequately hiding we revealed ourselves to the police. We were met with six loaded guns, yelling at us to put our hands up. Even after we had surrendered ourselves pistols were still aimed and ready to fire. The police questioned us and berated us for our “stupidity”, one officer even scolded another for not shooting us on the spot. This threat of violence shown against those who were seemingly attempting find refuge from a winter storm is ridiculous and displays the criminalization of poverty that exists in our society. Furthermore, it shows the backward values of our community which place the protection of private property above the safety and well-being of people. It is doubtful that SFPD’s response to a report of violence or sex slavery in the Tenderloin would be nearly as robust or timely.

We entered the space earlier in the morning to barricade the doors and with the hope of later creating an open space. The idea of an open and notorious occupation off campus requires a closer examination but should not be abandoned. The creation of liberated spaces in the community is something that we strive and dream for. In our decision to take this particular space as well to publicize it widely we wished to show to the student community the common circumstances that exist  between two issues that are normally distant as well as show student support for those dealing with the reality of homelessness and precarious housing. Our failure illustrated to us how much we have to learn from those already involved squatting.

While this attempt was thwarted by the police, we are not finished. While currently in society we are students, we will not allow this designation to confine our action to the University. The issue of unaffordable housing leaves no person unaffected – all people must figure out some way to get a roof over their head. We will of course have to reexamine how and why we squat, but we will squat again.

We stand in solidarity with all of those without homes, those criminalized and demonized by society, and those who have begun this struggle before us.

There will be a march today against homelessness and for affordable housing starting at 11am from Justin Herman Plaza to the Federal Building

Below is the communique that was intended to be released today by those occupying the Hibernia National Bank building in SF:

ON OCCUPATION OF THE HIBERNIA BANK

Today marks the first anniversary of President Obama’s inauguration. Since January 2008, economic devastation has been spreading quickly across the country. This financial downfall is only the latest in a long failure of the leaders of our nations to create a positive, real change for the majority of people. Obama has increased funding to the military and declared that the large banking corporations were “too big to fail”, but he has failed to prove with his actions that he will help all people as generously. Instead, security of the corporate and national interests are prioritized over funding homes, food, and other critical needs for the people of the world. He is not to be bothered with crazy dreams of creating housing and education for all.

Over 6 million Americans today are homeless, and this number is increasing daily due to foreclosures, the rising cost of housing, decreasing wages and benefits, the impossible cost of healthcare, and our shrinking welfare safety net due to budget cuts and structural adjustment.  In San Francisco, a city which prides itself on its progressive values, there are an estimated 15,000 homeless people living in the streets and less than 1000 emergency shelter beds.   This makes no sense.  All people require housing, but the government has proven they will not help to make that happen.  Instead of providing for the people, they pledge huge financial resources to bail out banks and predatory corporations responsible for this economic “crisis” in the first place. This clear lack of interest in the welfare of people across the state is exhibited in the number of those abandoned and criminalized by society.

The poorest of us, the so-called ‘homeless,’ are increasingly harassed by the cops through “quality of life” laws established for the sake of tourism or increased consumption. Now in San Francisco the business community is demanding the creation of a new sit-lie ordinance, banning members of the public from sitting or lying on public sidewalk anytime, anywhere. San Francisco will join many other cities that exclusively enforce these laws upon those without homes, illustrating the degradation individuals face each day because of our criminalization of poverty.

We will no longer take this lying down.  We will no longer wait for a political solution to homelessness and affordable housing that the ruling class will never deliver. We seek not reforms, but a new reality.  If we need real housing, we must take it ourselves.  If we need real education, we must create it ourselves. If we need a new society and economy we must build it ourselves.  We reject the disenfranchisement of our society and recognize that we must take the power back – we must begin by creating realities from our dreams.  We must take back the power and the control of our lives, no longer will it be left to the international corporations, local business interests, and governments to decide how our lives will run from their cozy boardrooms and country clubs.

The actions of students in California have so far been contained in the Universities but it cannot remain that way; the conditions in the schools are inseparably tied to the conditions in our communities, across the state and across the world.  The privatization of schools and social services parallels the privatization of our society. Our current social reality tells us it is unacceptable to demand more money and resources for schools  as that money must come through the decimation of other social services.  We recognize it is futile to demand action from a removed, alien body.  We will become that action we want and we will build and create those resources we need.  We seek new spaces and unheard of relations.  We will begin to create our own realities and our own services. We must find real freedom in thought and action, not this manufactured lie that is spit out to us in every living moment.  We seek the creation of new forms of life, built upon common understanding and solidarity instead of competition and alienation.

We seek to overcome the false separation of the student struggle that keeps us from realizing our common reality with all sectors of society. We are all denied a creative life by the global powers, denied the possibility for the exploration and elaboration of new forms of being besides this exploitation and oppression they force us to endure. We now join comrades across the state who have already begun this struggle – the people who fight against the criminalization of life. Our path to liberation is bound with theirs, we all share an absent future and the possibility for a new life.  If they take our means of survival, rights to housing, education, welfare, union jobs, and other public services, we will take their banks. It remains for the people of this state to seize what is rightfully theirs.    Occupy Everything!

Find foreclosed properties to squat

www.foreclosure.com

Occupation: a do-it-yourself guide -

theimaginarycommittee.wordpress.com

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