Occupy San Diego is on the little plaza just outside the San Diego Civic Theater, which is where Julie and I saw _Wicked_ and other Broadway plays, and where we will be going to see another play next week. Appropriately enough, that play is Hair. The news and local blogs identify that little plaza as the San Diego Civic Center, but neither Julie nor I nor Google Maps have ever heard of such a place. There is, however, a Civic Center stop on the Trolley, our local light rail, so I just drove there late Sunday afternoon and then drove around until I saw a half dozen police cars and motorcycles, some cops walking around, and a big placard on the sidewalk that said “Occupy San Diego.” I parked a couple of blocks away, and walked back.
On arrival, I talked to a guy who looked to be in his early 20s, carrying this sign:
He introduced me to his pregnant wife and young daughter. He said he does PR, marketing, and online community management for a game company. I asked him why he was demonstrating, and what changes should be made in the economic system. He said he favors capitalism, but believes that too much wealth is concentrated in the hands of too few people. He believes everybody should have an opportunity to start a business and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
I asked him what he thought about criticism that Occupy was incoherent, and should have an organized list of demands. He said, well, he’d like to see them have three talking points and focus on those points. Spoken like a true PR person, I said.
There seemed to be about a hundred people in the plaza, mostly young but a few older, mostly white but a few of other races. They were mostly a bohemian lot, as you might expect, but many of them looked like they’d fit right into any business office.
One of the leaders was a red-haired woman with a lot of tattoos, wearing a sundress.
I had a good conversation with a young blonde woman with a Mohawk. She told me the police were very helpful, looking out for them and clearing the way for their protest marches. (Although I have seen reports elsewhere of conflicts with San Diego police.)
I stopped at a card table set up as an information kiosk in the center of the plaza. They had some tattered mimeographed documents stating Occupy’s principles and demands, which they said were downloadable from the Occupy Wall Street Website. I asked them what they needed, they said nonperishable food, medical assistance and supplies. They’re set on bottled water. I saw a bushel of apples. I went to a commissary area in the back of the plaza, and they told me about more things they needed: Any snack foods. A couple of camp stoves. Instant coffee. I said I was about to make an EXTREMELY GENEROUS DONATION, and fished around in my gear back for three Kashi bars I thought I had in there. Turned out I only had two. The young man at the table thanked me anyway; he said everybody else was taking from the commissary, so every little bit given helped.
I walked past two young men seated on the ground. One of them asked me what time it was. I looked on my iPhone, and told them: “4:20.” As I walked away, the other man snickered. It took me a second to figure out what he was laughing at. Right. 4:20. I went back and talked to him (the guy who asked me the time had left), and we talked for a while. I’d seen him walking around before; he was wearing a dirty bathrobe and carrying a placard. I’d avoided him before because, to me, a guy walking around in public wearing a dirty bathrobe is not someone you want to seek out. But he explained that he is not a crazy person; he just wanted to attract attention to his sign, and a guy walking around wearing a bathrobe certainly attracts attention.
A crowd marched off through downtown. I didn’t join them. They came back
I had been nervous about going down, hearing about riots in other cities and some problems in San Diego. I even thought about taking the Trolley in, in case I got arrested, but I finally decided, screw it, I’d just take the car. The Trolley takes forever. I thought about wearing clothes that could stand a sidewalk-scraping, and wondered if I’d be pepper-sprayed or beaten. I got so nervous — oh, why not call it what it was; I was afraid — that I thought about not going. But it was entirely a pleasant experience, and I’m glad I went. I’m going to try to get back in a few days, and bring groceries this time.
You want to know what the Occupy movement wants? I can tell you. Here are three talking points, to gladden a PR person:
– They want an honest day’s pay for a day’s honest work.
– They want to keep their pay themselves, not have their money get siphoned to the richest 1%.
– They want a shot at the American dream.
In other words, they want the cookies, not the crumbs left by the 1%.
(The little red wagon at this woman’s feet had trays of cookies on it.)
Or, rather: We want those things. I sure do. Don’t you?