With the sun still bright but a clear fog arcing over Twin Peaks, people and police began to assemble on the southwest corner of Dolores and 20th Streets around 5 p.m.
Lotta Garrity, 73, moved to the Mission 42 years ago because she wanted to be in the sun. “This didn’t used to be a desirable neighborhood, but I like to garden,” she said, leaning down to pick a sign out of a pile on the ground.
Garrity is a retired nurse, and she and her 80-year-old artist husband are facing an eviction from their apartment on the 600 block of Guerrero. She’s going to fight it, but today she came out to support the teachers and families who are being evicted from 812 Guerrero St., a seven-unit apartment building that Google lawyer Jack Halprin bought two years ago.
The most popular sign in the crowd: “Google, don’t be evil. Make Jack Halprin stop evicting teachers.”
Garrity and the 200 or so other protesters planned to snake around the inner Mission, weaving between Dolores and Guerrero, 21st and Duboce, to visit en masse various buildings where tenants are being evicted.
When District Supervisor Scott Wiener showed up before the protest took off, people started to yell at him to leave. “Class enemy!” one man screamed. Wiener looked nervous and unsure of what to do. Eventually, he left.
The crowd was diverse in race, age, and occupation. A hip 36-year-old social worker who lives in Bernal Heights said he was worried about his friends being priced out of the city. Many of them have already fled to the East Bay in search of cheaper rents.
Adriel Holse Rozenblum, a second grader at Buena Vista Horace Mann, who assured me that everyone thinks he’s a fourth grader, had come with his mom because teachers at his school are being evicted from their homes.
A group of Asian women from Chinatown held up signs written in Mandarin. They face the same struggles in that neighborhood, according to one.
From the southwest edge of Dolores Park, the protest headed to Jack Halprin’s place at 812 Guerrero St., the site of protests earlier in the morning. This time, Chris Sideris, an employee of Mobile Payments and a tenant in the building, told his story. He tried to appeal to Google – although it was unclear if there was a single Google employee in the crowd, there were plenty of reporters to deliver the message. He made the point that the company always says that it is trying to help the city. In this case, Sideris said emphatically, it is not.
Sideris’ good friend Susan was asked to leave the building after Halprin said his life partner was going to move into her unit. The partner never showed up, but Susan left the city with her nephew, Sideris told the crowd.
The next stop was Mission High. On the way, idle passers-by avoided the 200-person strong crowd as they made a beeline for Tartine Bakery and Bi-Rite. Many kept their heads down, starring at phones. Others took out the latest iPhone model and snapped a few pictures before carrying on with their lives.
Three guys in workout clothes kept a space between themselves and the protest while walking in the same general direction. They knew the protest had something to do with gentrification. “Not my cup of tea,” one said while the three turned on Dolores and headed in a different direction.
At Mission High, the crowd listened to a teacher from Balboa High and then a senior from Lowell, Natalia Agruello-Inglis, whose grandfather owns a small business near 20th and Mission.
“We can’t blindly hate on the techies and yuppies. We all have to fight this together,” she declared. There was a light applause.
“Gentrification isn’t going to go away…We need to teach them how not to be gentrifiers.” She made a plea that the money coming into San Francisco be harnessed to do good things for public schools and homeless shelters.
Police were everywhere, silently keeping watch over the scene as the crowd moved north on Dolores toward Duboce. A very clean-cut and well-dressed man marched with the crowd. He was cryptic and would only say that he was there to monitor the police.
He wasn’t the only one inspecting the crowd. Residents looked out the windows of their homes. Despite the chants to join in, none did.
The police looked bored. The crowd was largely peaceful with the only violence being the stop at 255 Dolores Street where children whacked candy out of multiple piñatas made to resemble the head of Daniel Bornstein, a lawyer who represents landlords and is involved in the eviction of this residence.
At least two school board members made it out. One of them was Matt Haney, a Bay Area native who has lived in San Francisco for eight years but joined the Board as its youngest member after being voted into office in November 2012.
“You can’t be an education advocate without being a housing advocate,” he said.
At 55 Dolores Street, Roberto Hernandez, an activist, echoed Arguello-Inglis.
“It’s not about the Ellis Act. It’s about educating these people to be human and live in love,” he said. Then he asked the crowd to take a moment of silence for Alex Nieto, a man who was fatally shot by police a few weeks ago.
As it wore on, the protest was no longer specific to anything other than evictions, and the weather became noticeably colder. The fog was finally settling in the Mission.
David Campos showed up and talked about future legislation. The crowd erupted in the loudest cheers of the evening, a stark contrast to the response to Wiener’s presence. A white tech bus rolled by on Duboce between Dolores and Guerrero. A few people jumped in front of it while most shook their fists in disapproval. The blockade lasted five minutes, during which time the police appeared apprehensive to take action. Then the protest carried on down Duboce.
As Benito Santiago, another teacher, lead chanted in front of yet another building, a cab drove by. A bemused-looking girl in the backseat rolled down her window and took a few shots with her gold iPhone 5S. A man in his apartment next door stood at the window and filmed the whole speech on the same exact phone. Jonathan Feldman ambled around the crowd finishing up a box of KFC chicken.
He’s not really sure what’s going on. He lives in LA and is visiting a friend who goes to USF. He followed him here.
“It sure is interesting, though,” he said.