Tuesday, June 18, 2013

San Francisco Police Swarm Gezi Gardens to Prevent Re-Occupation

People outside of Gezi Gardens.
As with many things, I was stuck at work when friends, neighbors, and those brave enough to face down the San Francisco Police tried to re-take Gezi Gardens last Friday. In between breaks at work I attempted to check the twitter stream and see how the march was doing and texted friends to make sure that they weren't in jail. After talking to several participants who attended the march and attempted to re-occupy the garden I feel on one hand great admiration for those brave enough to risk a nightstick to the back of the head but also great sadness for the destruction of Gezi Gardens. Many of the youth that helped occupy the park were some of the same people that squatted and kept open the SF Commune, which was likewise evicted by the SFPD in a huge raid with automatic weapons.  I hope these youth will not lose hope. I hope that they will not leave the bay area and leave the struggle, fed up with the police repression and constant attacks.

While degraded in the media as 'outsiders' and often written off by some revolutionaries for being homeless and not up on the latest revolutionary theories, the homeless kids who made up the backbone of the encampment were the foot soldiers that made the space possible. Many were radicalized and politicized during Occupy SF and the wider Occupy movement and have continued to involve themselves in ongoing struggles. Occupy was the most important recent political event because of this; it pulled in many people on the bottom of American society, outcasted, rejected, and from the gutter. This came with warts and all. Many kids I met at Gezi Gardens came from hard lives and the streets, but in Occupy they found a family and a community. They found a commune. The bourgeois media overlooked this and tried to play on middle-class fears, but in doing so they missed out on what was most subversive thing about Occupy. That it created an event that brought so many of us together and united us in a project. One part resistance, one part simply living. In doing so, we came up against the state, it's repression and surveillance and police, as well as it's media, and also the Left, which attempted to channel us back into political parities and non-profits.

According to various people interviewed and internet reports, people gathered close by Gezi Gardens and attempted to march on the space. With police surrounding the entrance, people then tried to get into the garden from the side only to find that another swarm of police were already inside the garden. Marchers then took to the streets, shooting fireworks and blocking traffic. Several arrests occurred. According to the People's Record
Gezi Gardens organizers & supporters marched around the farm, shutting down two intersections during rush hour. The National Park Service was also called to the space after hummingbird carcasses were found, as well as nesting crows in the eucalyptus trees, so the construction & demolishing has been halted (for now)! An archaeologist has also been called to go into the land to confirm that it is a sacred indigenous burial ground. 

People work vacant lot in Richmond.
While writing this report, I drove by Gezi Gardens, but only saw several police vehicles around the space and the front of Laguna blocked off. Talking with a friend on the phone, I also learned that the plot of land in Albany most recently occupied by Occupy the Farm has recently had a fence placed around it. Likewise, a vacant lot in Richmond that high school youths and Occupy gardeners that was being worked on has likewise had a fence and lock placed around it by police. It's disgusting that in an area torn apart by violence and shootings that when people do come together to plant food and start a garden the land is fenced off by police. This move by the state is the essence of white supremacy and the naked violent nature of the state and the police that serve it. More interested in control and suppression of community power, it is willing to keep people off land that is unused than allow them to take control of one small aspect of their lives. It is fear of black people rising up and it is fear that others will link up with them in this struggle.   

At Gezi Gardens, the trees have been cut down and the crops plowed over, but the spirit of the SF Commune remains. For all of us who took part in the occupation of this land for two weeks the experience of living together and fighting together will not dissipate anytime soon. The seed of revolt that has been planted inside so many of us continues to grow. The fight against gentrification and displacement must and will continue. The battle for a new relationship to the land outside of capitalism and against the state will go on. Because quite simply, we have no other choice.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Riot Police Raid Gezi Gardens and Evict Tree-Sit; People Prepare to Re-Occupy on Friday

Black eye from SFPD.
As police in Turkey continue to try and remove people from Gezi Park in Istanbul, last night over 100 riot police raided the encampment at Fell and Laguna, arresting 7 people, removed tree sitters, and destroyed crops and structures. A seen in one video, one tree-sitter fell from their tree while being removed, although it is unclear if they have any serious injuries. According to Liberate the Land, "Folks are gathering at Patricia's Green on Octavia Street between Hayes Street and Fell Street now after a night time lightning raid by SFPD on #GeziGardens, the former site of Hayes Valley Farm on Oak and Laguna Streets, with guns drawn. Folks who just went through the raid and supporters need food, a kitchen, sleeping bags, banner making materials, paint, etc. Come gather with us today, meet up for a discussion at 6pm, and definitely plan to come here Friday at 6pm for a reconvergence. Let it build."

Police blocking of street in front of garden.
Police appear to have the area around the garden blocked off while they destroy the rest of the encampment. As was planned, people will continue to gather at Octavia and Fell Streets to prepare to retake the land on Friday at 6pm. People are encouraged to take part in the mobilization and bring supplies if they are not able to make it out. Occupiers have planned a weekend long festival from Saturday to Monday, to coincide with the construction of the new development on the site of the garden.

Police outside of garden.
As usual, most mainstream media reports are now heralding the raid, portraying protesters as out of town idiot hippies with no community support what-so-ever. Interesting how when hundreds, including many locals came through the gates for a festival last Saturday, most media was remarkably absent. The media loves a good protest story, but they love the happy ending of the government coming in, cracking skulls, and sending those that would dare resist to jail. It's a tale that they constantly repeat and it serves as a warning to anyone else that would dare stand up to the forces of the state and business as to where struggling will get you.

Police removing tree-sitter.
The luxury condo development which is slated to take place where the garden now stands will be part of an onslaught of developments which will add to the gentrification of San Francisco and the continued displacement of many of the current residents. As the Guardian recently wrote: "Regional planners want to put 280,000 more people into San Francisco — and they admit that many current residents will have to leave."

While the construction plans call for half of the site to be "affordable housing," this is based on half of the median income of the city, which is around $60,000, still much more than many people, including many families are able to make in the city. Trust me, if some Hayes Valley Residents are uncomfortable rubbing elbows with Occupy protestors working a tomato plant, they aren't going to allow a family from the Tenderloin or Hunter's Point to move in next door.

Festival planned this weekend.
San Francisco is still a city swimming with thousands of vacant properties. According to the San Francisco Business Times, "[The city] has more than 30,000 empty homes according to 2010 U.S. Census data. That means about 8.3 percent or about one in every dozen homes is vacant — more than any other surrounding county." There is a reason for all the vacant homes as many are taken off the market by landlords so they will not be rent controlled or purposely made empty so they can be converted into condos through the Ellis Act. As in Turkey, the struggle at Gezi Gardens is not just over green space or a few trees, but a class struggle over the power of wealthy and powerful people to control and exploit our lives.   

The struggle at Gezi Gardens is still far from over. See you on the streets Friday!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Occupation of Gezi Gardens Continues as Hundreds Attend Saturday Event

Turkish dancer performs at Gezi Gardens.
Despite several days of police issuing trespassing notices to people on the ground at Gezi Gardens and pressure from the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association to raid the occupation at Fell and Laguna Streets, people are still holding down the land at the former Hayes Valley Farm, 24 hours a day. This occupation is historic, both in the sense that it is the first public tree-sit in San Francisco, but also as it is one of the largest and longest lasting public occupations of land to stop the construction of luxury condos against gentrification. While downplayed in the media, the occupation is also one of the largest and most militant direct acts of solidarity with the ongoing Turkish rebellion, with many from the Turkish community participating in actions at the park and strengthening the link between the two struggles currently being waged.

Those occupying the space have turned away and kept out not only workers that had come to cut down trees on the site to make way for development, but also the police which have made several attempts to enter into the garden. In one instance police tried to open the gate at space and people literally shut the gate in their faces, proclaiming that police were not allowed inside. This 'cop free zone' brings to mind the Occupy Oakland encampment, in which police were not welcome.

People gather to listen to presentation from Occupy Gezi.
On Saturday, June 8th, several hundred people responded to a call to help occupy the park and enjoy a community festival and took part in the occupation of the space, viewed the garden, listened to speakers and workshops, and also took part in a mass assembly discussion on the future of the garden. The festival occupation was also joined by people from the local Turkish community, some of whom had been to Gezi Park in Istanbul and expressed solidarity to those continuing the occupation of the garden. A workshop was also given by several Turkish comrades on the ongoing social rebellion in Turkey which was attended by a large group of people. The group discussion that soon followed on the future of the space was varied but well attended. Out of that meeting it was discussed and decided that if and when the police raid, the next day people will gather at "at 6:00PM at Patricia's Green - Octavia and Fell - to reclaim the Gardens." Several bands also performed Saturday and lots of food was shared. As the day turned into night, people set up a projector with films and watched documentaries on the South Central Farm and the Occupy Wall Street movement. 

March to solidarity rally with Turkish rebellion.
The next day, people at the farm marched to a Turkish solidarity rally in San Francisco holding banners and chanting slogans. Many people from the solidarity rally then returned to Gezi Gardens and spoke there. At the rally, people read a statement of solidarity with the Turkish rebellion. Read the full statement here. People are still holding the space down and have planned a three day festival next weekend although they are buckling for a police raid on the encampment which they expect soon.   

For more info, pictures, and updates, check out:

Friday, June 7, 2013

Police Threaten to Evict Gezi Gardens as Support Grows for Saturday Festival

Another badass flyer. DIZAM!
Last evening at around 7pm, SFPD issued an eviction notice citing 'unlawful lodging, disorderly conduct,' and 'health and safety laws' to the Gezi Gardens, the occupied community green and garden space on Fell and Laguna Streets slated to be turned in luxury condos. Occupiers, made up of those on the ground and supporters from around the city and the neighborhood, are planning a festival on Saturday, June 8th, starting at 12 Noon. Participants believe that police will attempt to raid the camp before the festival as a way to drive away community support for the space. Support is needed at the gardens now more than ever! Solidarity with Turkey, Defend Gezi Gardens!

From Twitter:

"Tree sitters, activists and community members have been served with a notice to vacate the land known as the former Hayes Valley Farm, now christened Gezi Gardens. Police cite Trespassing , Disorderly Conduct, health code, and fire code violations. We reject the conversion of greenspace into luxury apartment developments, and encourage the community to assist in creating an alternate vision that provides the affordable housing the city needs without compromising one of our last open spaces.

Is 'Brickman' up there? GULP!

Contact: 201-388-2367

PRESS CONFERENCE TOMORROW, FRIDAY June 7th 10:00 a.m. (Laguna and Oak Streets, SF)

This is one of three urban gardens and permaculture farms in San Francisco that are slated to become housing developments by the end of the year. This is during a fervent dialogue about the need for more spaces to grow local, organic food and current statistics of 36,000 vacant units."

On Saturday, June 8th at 12 Noon, there will be a festival held at Gezi Gardens as well as a community discussion forum about the future of the space. Please come and support the gardens and the occupation by coming and spending time there and helping to build support for the event on Saturday. The more people on the ground, the less likely a police raid. 
"I like the way you plant it...No Diggity!"

Having walked around the camp today taking pictures and conducting interviews, I can personally say that the camp is coming along very nice. I was only there for about 20 minutes before going to work, but in that time several people in the neighborhood stopped by and walked around, many taking flyers back to their buildings. The neighborhood seems very white and upper-middle class and along the lines of, "What petition can I sign?," but overall I haven't heard one negative comment regarding the project. One young person I talked to said that she now, "Hangs out there," instead of down the street at the coffee shop and also volunteered to take posters and put them in her building. One couple drove their SUV into the lot and donated several flats of pears; others donated pastries. The kitchen area was well cleaned and there was a stove and eating area. The garden itself was very impressive. At this point, a large amount of land has already been planted on. One woman, (shown in the picture), agreed to have her photo taken while she was planting. There are several treesits that have been constructed, many very high up. There are also several other structures that are being worked on or that have been built, as well as a common area, art space, free store, and library box.

Tree-sit with banner.
People overall seemed concerned about keeping trash and waste to a minimum and also keeping camping and personal items away from common space areas and making the garden overall inviting to people. Lots of dogs playing. Would have been a nice place to read a book if I didn't have to go work! I'll save my further analysis for a later time, but what makes me most sad is that I haven't even had enough time to get in the dirt and plant. Can't wait to put these black and green thumbs to work! The old People's Park slogan bodes well here. 'Everyone gets a blister!'

In other news, Susie Cagle, radical-journalist on hand to uncova the scoop and author of 9 Gallons, a comic about doing time with SF Food Not Bombs, even managed to give yours truly an honorable mention in one of her comics, ...ah, ala Twitter. Apparently the offer to trade jobs of bus driving in Richmond and writing (and getting paid!) was funny enough to share with others. Keep prole and take a stroll. 

SFPD is some party-poop pas.
Facebook event here

Link to PDF flyer here

Link to Ryan Rising Interview on Gezi Gardens occupation on Bay Waters here.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mission Gears Up for 'Eviction Free-Summer': Marches, Graffiti and Meetings

Residents march through Mission on history tour of Ellis Act evicted properties.
Graffiti outside of Adobe Books
Tonight while on a walk in the Mission District, I came across this graffiti outside of Adobe Books on 16th Street which reads, 'Fuck Liz Claiborne.' The message is a direct reference to the landlords who pushed out Adobe Books, raising their rent from $4,500 to $8,000 before finally pulling the plug on the business, a mainstay in the Mission. The upscale clothing store, 'Jack Spade,' is slated to take the place of the used bookstore. Support for the Adobe Books Collective has been high, with it even raising up to $60,000 in funds to help pay it's rent. Esta Noche, a bar about a block away on the same street is also threatened with eviction as well. The graffiti comes after a recent march through the Mission which was a history tour visiting various businesses that had been closed and homes where Ellis Act evictions had gone through. View a march route with stops of interest here.

People gather in Adobe Books
Since the Anti-Gentrification Block Party in the Mission last month, talk about the start again of a movement against evictions and displacement has been simmering. The SF Bay Guardian recently published a map showing Ellis Act evictions that have taken place in the neighborhood over the past year - one that is at a record high. The numbers are clear. Rent in most cases have gone up, sometimes doubling. In working class areas, Ellis Act evictions have displaced those with rent control and entire neighborhoods have changed while thousands have been forced to leave the city. From the Guardian article:

Ellis Act Evictions in SF
In 2011, San Francisco rents were 34 percent higher than they had been 2003; by 2012, they had jumped to 53 percent higher, according to a market analysis prepared by The Concord Group. According to San Francisco Rent Board data, 1,757 eviction notices were filed from March of 2012 to February of 2013, reflecting a 12-year high. It's as if there's no longer any room for the working class — the people who, for example, keep the city's number one industry (that's hospitality and tourism, not tech) functioning. It's terrifying. Neighborhood after neighborhood is losing affordable rental housing as landlords cash in on soaring prices. And there's a huge human cost.
In another recent article about projected development and growth from local elites, the Guardian points out how much developers and city planners are already planning on the city growing, and us leaving. As the article states, "Regional planners want to put 280,000 more people into San Francisco — and they admit that many current residents will have to leave."

Someone used to live here.
With the gentrification pandemic reaching such a high point and more and more people starting to get involved again in thinking about resisting the current wave of evictions - a group is calling for a meeting to plan an 'Eviction Free-Summer' this Saturday at the historic Red Stone Building. In a sick Ironic way, the plot right behind the building is set to be turned into condos. Facebook event is here. The text reads:

We invite you to come out and be a part of this critical first meeting of a citizen driven anti-eviction league, whose purpose is to directly confront the serial evictors taking us away from our homes.

During the meeting, we hope to bring out a lively and diverse crowd ready to take on some serious strategizing. The purpose of the group is anti-eviction home defense, which can mean a lot of different things (phone calls, direct action, petitioning). We can't wait to hear your ideas!

Join us in getting people reeved up for and excited for this new group! Bring your family and friends, and share this invitation widely. And, most importantly, come to the REDSTONE BUILDING
2926 16th STREET AT CAPP,
from 1pm to 2:30pm

Monday, June 3, 2013

People Take Over SF Urban Farm in Solidarity With Turkish Uprising

Over 80 people marched on Saturday in solidarity with the ongoing struggle in Turkey against gentrification and against police brutality that has lead to massive riots to the Hayes Valley Farm in San Francisco that recently has been evicted to make way for condos. Below is a report from their first day. We have reports that people are still on the land. We wish them all the best of luck!
June 1, 2013 is the first day of a land liberation action in San Francisco at Laguna and Fell Streets.

We marched to the land in solidarity with the struggle currently underway in Turkey. After attempting to save a park in Istanbul – one of the last green spaces in their city – the citizens were subject to brutal repression at the hands of the out of control Prime Minister and his army of unrestrained police. This repression has metastisized what was always a larger movement brewing in Turkey. Their struggle is ours.

Liberate the Land has now planted the land known for the last five years as 'Hayes Valley Farm' with hundreds of starts that, when grown, will feed the community. The group is building a village on-site to maintain the edible landscape and organic garden. We have re-named the land Gezi Gardens in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Turkey and wherever capital threatens the last of our urban green space.

We linked the Taksim solidarity march and land occupation together, showing the intentions of a global movement and helping to spread the news of the brutalization of Turkish citizens. Our fight is theirs because development, no matter where, is strictly in the name of capital, and in that sense, is rife with innocent victims, in the pursuit of profit. In the end, we don't simply want to garden, we want massive systemic change, and are attempting to show ways in which these changes can begin.

The land is slated to become a housing development, a 185-unit condominium, displacing the gardens, the trees, the community, and the huge potential this beautifully maintained soil has to feed others for free.

"As a citizen, I have the freedom of being able to ask what's better for the community, this farm or more developments?" says Morgan Fitzgibbons, head of the neighborhood sustainability group the Wigg Party and farm volunteer. "The farm is an anchor of a burgeoning sustainability movement, and after seeing all the good it can do, are we still going to go in there and build? I think the issue is bigger than one city block." We plan to hold the space indefinitely and create a center for urban sustainability and permaculture.

See the architectural plans Build Inc. and Pyatok Architects have hatched to replace this permaculture haven here:

See past photos of Hayes Valley Farm here:
The displacement of Hayes Valley Farm, Esperanza Gardens, and The Free Farm in order to further develop will not go unchallenged. A network arises to plant this land located on Laguna and Fell and build a new eco-village. We will maintain the edible landscape and community space. Condominiums are rampant, but urban gardens that can sustain low income families are far too scarce.

Liberate the Land invites everyone to join this network in the days following today's liberation, to plant food, create and promote permaculture, host and attend workshops, teach and take classes, play and enjoy music, build, gather, experiment, play, learn, and be together.  A vibrant community of plants and people are living on this land as of this first of June rather than the first layers of concrete foundation for condominiums.  We invite our neighbors in Hayes Valley to join us in open dialogue to further decide what Gezi Gardens will become.

Liberate the Land is bringing into dialogue the concept of common space, a classification of space that goes outside of the dichotomy of private and public and instead places itself as the commons. The commons exist as the spaces owned and operated neither by governments and states, nor corporations and private individuals. Instead, the commons are owned, or stewarded, by all people, with an understanding that the gifts of the earth are for all to enjoy and that people need land bases for growing food, harvesting medicinal plans, maintaining healthy forests for building materials and firewood, wildcrafting plants for fabrics, and hosting wildlife habitat.

Hayes Valley Farm has hosted enormous amounts of edible plants, as well as wildlife habitat over the past five years, where before its creation was asphalt, a freeway on ramp, and a camp of people without homes. Now, birds, butterflies, bees, and other wildlife have inhabited the space, as well as gardeners, neighbors, students, and permaculture enthusiasts.

So now, the city having sold the land that sustains these gardens to a developer, the people of San Francisco are looking at losing another recreational and open green space to a housing unit. At first, we may consider the need for more housing in San Francisco, until we look at some of the latest US Census Bureau statistics that state there are currently 36,000 empty housing units in the city alone. There are only estimated to be 6 to 10,000 homeless people. This means we can house every person without a home in SF somewhere between 3 and 6 times over. Liberate the Land claimed in the dialogue and discussion hosted at The Free Farm, another farm slated to become a housing unit, that if housing was the issue we are best to look at these 36,000 empty units, retrofit them and move people into them, especially families who have been displaced due to the foreclosure crisis.

In solidarity with those who criticize the
foreclosure crisis and the large corporate banks' role in the displacement of people and the abandonment of viable homes, we will celebrate the solutions offered by the local, organic food movement and urban farms and gardens. The Free Farm, a community farm and permaculture garden that rose in the ashes of a burnt out church at Gough and Eddy Streets, grows thousands of pounds of food that it gives away for free. Every Sunday, the Free Farm Stand sets up at Parque Ninos Unidos in the Mission district. Canopies, tables, and a full spread of free food are on offer. Hundreds of people line up to receive organic produce, fruit, breads, pastas, greens, pastries, and more. The majority of the organic vegetables and greens, in addition to smaller amounts of fruit and other produce is grown right here in San Francisco at The Free Farm and Esperanza Gardens, both slated to become condominiums within the year.

Separately from the Liberate the Land group taking direct action, another network has formed to approach the situation on the legal grounds. With a petition to "Preserve Hayes Valley Farm," and a proposal to "transition ownership from private to the collective common property," this network is asking the city to buy back the land from the developer and maintain it as open space.

We support a diversity of methods to resist the ongoing development of the last viable green spaces in every city across the Earth.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Oakland Police Shoot and Kill Man in East Oakland

This Wednesday, police shot and killed a man who attempted to flee from police in the East Oakland area. Against Hired Guns, a group that was interviewed in the first issue of FireWorks, distributed a flyer in the surrounding neighborhoods that talks about the recent police shooting and puts the killing in a context of racist police power as a tool of social control. Recently, Oakland has seen a series of police killings and shootings of young men in the last several weeks with almost no uproar from the communities where they have happened; be it 'radical' or not. The text from their flyer is reproduced below.

Police at war. Against Hired Guns.  
On Wednesday afternoon, the Oakland police shot and killed a man at the corner of Bancroft and Ritchie. According to police statements, they found out that “occupants of a particular vehicle may be armed.” The cops chased the car until people hopped out and ran in different directions. A cop shot and killed one of them, who the police now say had a gun.  
The police haven’t even claimed that any of those men threatened them, which they always do in order to justify murder. That’s what they said when they killed Gary King, Andrew Moppin, Oscar Grant, Raheim Brown, Alan Blueford… The list goes on, and it’s an old story that they always repeat to justify murder.  
The only person who was hurt in the entire situation was the person the police murdered. Had the cops not chased them, there's no reason to believe anyone would have been hurt. When Derrick “Deedee” Jones was murdered by cops near Bancroft and Seminary in 2010, they said that he took out a gun. They told us later that he NEVER had a weapon, and one of the cops who killed him said: "We were just doing our job, as we were trained to do.”  
Just as that cop said, it is part of the job of police to kill people. It is a mistake to think that they kill people to make us safer, which is what they tell us. The reason they kill us is the same reason they lock us up. It’s the same reason they target us with stay-away orders, gang injunctions, Operation Ceasefire, or whatever their latest scheme is.  
In the 1970s, 44% of Oakland’s population was Black. The Black population has steadily decreased. Between 2000 and 2010, 25% of Oakland’s Black population left the city.  
Every time they kill someone and almost every time they lock someone up, the person is Black or Brown. Every time they make a new policy, it is enforced in working class Black and Brown neighborhoods but never in wealthy or white areas.  
The police are here to kill, contain, harass and cage. That is not how we make public safety. That is how we make war. There is a war against the people of Oakland and it is being facilitated by the cops.  
Fuck the Police. Know Your Rights. Never Snitch.