Occupy Wall Street spread across the country to downtown San Francisco, and on Saturday to a sun-filled Dolores Park, where screaming activists found picnickers lounging and hula hoopers swinging their hips.
The protesters began the walk to the Mission at Embarcadero and numbered about 100 by the time they arrived.
Magick Altman, an activist for 40 years, led the group in chants and encouraged everybody to go find one person in the park to talk to. A tarot consultant, she’s been part of Occupy San Francisco for four days.
“The whole system is dysfunctional and we need to create a new one,” Altman said, sweat beading down her face from her short hair. “I was here in the ’60s, we planted a lot of seeds. I vow to live to see it. Which means I either have to live a long time or it has to happen soon.”
“Wise words,” said one younger protester as he handed her a beer.
There were plenty of sloppily-dressed, long-haired protesters, and hoopers with shirts off, their chests painted with “Occupy SF,” but overall the crowd was mixed.
Some sat quietly in the grass holding signs. Two women in their 50s stood together; both are unemployed and without health insurance.
“This system is a mess, it’s a wreck,” said Jenny Huston, who lives in the East Bay because, she said, she can no longer afford to live in the city, though she was born here.
Both feel that government and big business are way too interconnected, and that deregulation is to blame.
Unemployed for more than two years, Huston said she worked with meal programs that were financed publicly, and the funds ran out. Despite having a master’s degree, she has found no other solid work.
“We’re becoming like a third-world country — 90 percent of the population beholden to the other 10 percent,” Huston, 52, said. “We learned in the ’80s that there’s no such thing as trickle down.”
“Well, some of us did,” Katherine Litsinger scoffed.
Litsinger would love to be working and saving up for retirement, but instead she’s struggling to get by on an unemployment check.
“People who are employed are, like, what are you talking about? I think we have to make the people lounging in this park understand what we’re doing — and we’re doing it for them, not just for us.”
A young man approached Altman to try to move the group on to the Castro.
“If you want to get people to march to the Castro, go,” she said, advising them to stick to sidewalks but adding, “I’m not in charge.”
She expressed a similar sentiment to Lt. Kevin McNaughton, who was part of the fleet of eight police cars and eight motorcycles accompanying the protesters around the city.
“Where do we go from here?” McNaughton asked her.
“I’m not in charge,” Altman replied.
“But you’re a liaison, I’m a liaison, that’s what you said. The problem is I have the rest of the city to worry about.”
“You’ll get it after awhile,” Altman joked.
Though McNaughton said traffic was a snarl, the protesters on Saturday were “compliant.”