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.