I am waaay behind on political posts, and most likely can’t really play catch-up, except, I saw this video by way of browsing and had to post. About a month ago, on the night before May Day in San Francisco, a group of about 50 or more “black bloc” anarchists broke away from an Occupy rally being held in Dolores Park and began to parade down Valencia Street in full battle gear — all in black with hoodies and faces covered. The mob began to smash windows of small businesses and cars — they splashed paint on windows and even attacked a police car (with a cop in it), smashing the windows and throwing a small dumpster at it before it pulled out from the curb lights flashing. Accounts of how many cars had windows smashed varies, but I hear from 17 to 30. I think the number may be in-between. Expensive Ashton Martins were smashed, and ordinary sedans — the rioters were indiscriminate. Valencia Street is home to everything from burrito and pizza joints to newer and more expensive restaurants, some of which I have enjoyed in more flush times, and — there are art galleries and clothing stores. These are all, by and large, small businesses and they have lifted Valencia Street from being a dangerous, edgy stretch of concrete, mechanic garages, punk performance spaces, independent bookstores and lesbian bars in the 80’s to a post 20th century mix of grit and upscale with plenty of hipsters, old school punks, artists, and queer people still in the mix. There are now signs of real money on the street. Even so, while not always cheap now (although there is still enough cheap because it is a mix of elements) — it is still a fun street, and the fact that it is getting more “dressed up” has not made me less happy to visit. Valencia is one of my favorite places in San Francisco — and has been my home on and off. I lived on Valencia Street for about five years, from 2004 to 2009. I loved it. In the 80’s I lived right off of it for about five years also, so it is home really. I have seen it change massively. There is a lot to do, and it is close to the park, in the sunny Mission district. In earlier times, there were quirky bookstores, and now few are left, but — even so, the street entertains and fascinates. It is becoming more “gentrified”, as they say, but there is still variety and — many of the new businesses, the restaurants and galleries, pubs, furniture stores and clothing stores are places where fine food, locally designed clothing, and quirky furniture are created, displayed and sold. There’s a bit of something for everyone really.
I can’t believe this happened. And, the police were right there, the police station doors were smashed as well. Where were they? What was going on? They were not able to arrest anyone as I remember, or — possibly only one person?
In my past, in my deepest youthful past as a kind of self-described “anarchist” myself, I might have applauded this, though I doubt I would have taken part. But, I did not understand systems, people, economics or — the value of these small businesses as I do now. This video was made by the anarchists I believe and they tack on some ridiculous claptrap at the end about “capitalism”.
I could’ve cried watching this. San Francisco is a beautiful place, one of the most beautiful places in the country — and they are lucky to live there. This is what they do to beauty.
Many live here, but some — are out of towners? Yes and no. I don’t know. I bet it is a mix. I hope I don’t know any personally, although, it is possible I do. Yes, it is very possible, that I do.
I’ve seen some crazy stuff, even a riot of two, but nothing like this. Not anything so wantonly destructive without any purpose other than to vent resentment and hate. Other riots I’ve seen have been at least touched off by acute injustice (the “white night riots” in 1979 when the killer of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Mascone was let off with manslaughter)but this? It feels very different. Just — envy, resentment, frustration and — a kind of insipid and idiotic venting, a limp rebellion meaning nothing, accomplishing nothing. Nihilism.
The lone man who tries to stop them from smashing windows is brave, and I hope there were others like him. Obviously, there were not many. Most watched, a few elderly looking diners waved (that restaurant did have its windows broken later – Tartine’s), and others walked past. I can’t really blame the older diners for waving, what could they do? The rioters look and sound to be mostly very young, although I am sure there were a few older people, even in their forties or fifties around too. I have no doubt that while most were young, a few aging anarchists ogled the excitement, maybe they raised a fist in “solidarity”. Maybe one or two braved it and stormed a window.
These slogans are getting a little old. So – 20th century? However, some dreams just don’t die off so easily. But, this is where they go, this is what that “dream” looks like.
I am hoping that this nonsense is not repeated again, but I have no doubt we are in for more — this particular part of Occupy wants nothing more than to foment social unrest. And, no- not all Occupy people are for this… I know they are not. Of course, this did bother a lot of folks in SF, even those who had been sympathetic to Occupy. There were, of course, those who cried that this was “not Occupy” but maybe even “cops” out to cause trouble. Well, watching this, I don’t think so. I also know that the Black Bloc really does want to cause this sort of mayhem and destruction, and will continue. Let’s hope we’re not just getting started here, but I do fear for the worst as the summer begins.