Sal Alper sat casually in front of the Wells Fargo headquarters in downtown San Francisco, as if chaining herself to the banking giant’s front doors was a normal thing to do on a Friday morning. As one of the many Occupy San Francisco protests on January 20, Sal had joined dozens of people in blockading since 6:00 a.m., so by the time I arrived on the scene at mid-morning, she was smiling and relaxed. When I asked her why she was protesting the banks, however, her smile quickly faded.
“My parents lost their home to a bank foreclosure two years ago,” Sal said. “They moved in with my uncle, but then he lost his home too. So they all moved over to my grandma’s — and now she is being threatened too! And it’s all because of these banks right here.”
Such stories of anger and resistance were everywhere in San Francisco, as thousands of protesters took over the streets of the city’s financial district in their ambitious attempt to “Occupy Wall Street West.” In a daylong series of building occupations, marches, and civil disobedience, Occupy San Francisco organizers mobilized the biggest direct action in the city since the start of the Iraq War in 2003. While unable to fully shut down the business district, activists mounted the largest Occupy action in the country of 2012 so far, as they begin the next phase of the rising movement for social and economic justice.