It was a familiar scene at 24th and York Streets this afternoon around 2 p.m. The sun was hot and the sky clear blue. The Mayan dancers were there in their traditional dress, and many of the large signs and banners were recognizable from protests past. Erick Arguello of Calle 24 could be seen handing out flyers to those who had started to gather at the intersection. Tommi Avicolli Mecca showed up carrying his signature curly hair, newsboy cap, and canvas tote, ready to get the masses riled up for the anti-evictions protest that was about to happen.
Eventually hundreds of people appeared to walk down 24th and then Mission to the 16th Street BART plaza, where a community rally would culminate the days’ events. The message of this 85-degree, Saturday march was that the city should stop plans for the 350-unit development at the 16th Street BART plaza and people should vote Yes on Proposition G, which will be on this November’s ballot and make it more difficult for developers to flip multi-unit properties by imposing a surcharge.
If you live in the Mission, you have likely seen this scene every now and again. The route stayed on course, and the chants of “Our Mission, No Eviction” ebbed and flowed. There was a routine aspect to it all, and even the news helicopters, which sometimes fly overhead of these sorts of events, had seemed to lose interest. “I guess they are all at that Bluegrass festival,” said Leila Mansur of the Radio Habana Social Club.
Everyone who showed up largely had the same motive: support the longtime Mission residents who are fighting tooth and nail to keep their homes in the neighborhood. But not everyone was talking about the same thing during the roughly two hours it took to get from 24th and York to 16th and Mission.
One pair of middle-aged female friends inspected each other for signs of a sunburn before taking off with the crowd down 24th Street. The conversation quickly turned to vacation rentals.
“Where are you going?,” asked the friend with a short, greying bob and eye glasses that turn into sunglasses in the daylight.
“Farther south than I wanted. I like to be up north near the hot springs. Where we are going is towards the south of Mammoth Lakes,” replied the woman wearing a visor and red Keen sandals. Next, the conversation changed to a mutual friend’s divorce.
“He gets up close to my face and says ‘Do you want my endorsement or not?’” one woman in a flowered blouse tells another woman of a recent political meeting at City College. She continues to rant about the man who affronted her, while the other patiently listens, clearly looking to get out of the conversation but stuck there for the time being.
Meanwhile, Brendan Furley, who teaches at Lincoln High School, looked on at the crowd passing with his wife and baby daughter. The two adults studied one of the many signs that read “No Monster in the Mission” with a picture of the proposed development at the 16th Street BART Plaza. They wondered which corner of the street it would be on.
“Is it going to be above the Walgreen’s?,” Brendan asked.
Back in the middle of the crowd, Linda Ray complained about her back pain–something anyone who has walking in a long procession of people knows well–to Arla S. Ertz. The two had met four years ago because they are in the same union and had run into each other today.
“I used to work as a public health nurse in the Mission, and I was wondering how many people I used to see have had to leave,” said Linda, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1973.
“We always run into each other,” Arla, a social worker, said.
“You do run into people you know, but it’s not the reason I come,” Linda chimed in.
While walking along Mission, near the intersection of 22nd, a group of young kids with nose rings could be heard exclaiming profanities.
“We were talking about nothing that can be put in the newspaper,” one girl laughed when asked to share their conversation.
Everyone wanted to seem like they are talking about the issues at hand, but, in reality, the conversations were as eclectic as those one might hear at birthday party or in a crowded restaurant.
Two SFUSD teachers talked about their eye care.
“You know, glasses and contacts,” said Terycka Garcia, a teacher at San Francisco Community School. “I don’t have anymore contacts, so I was asking him where he gets his with our insurance,” Terycka said, pointing to her friend Pablo Portillo, a teacher at Fairmount Elementary.
“We were talking about our friends, Prop G, and how we are going to get our homework done. Oh, and how hot it is!,” said Julia Hernandez, a senior at San Francisco State University who was walking with her friend Abdul Sarkar, a sophomore.
“I was explaining the breakdown of Prop G to him,” Julia continued as the march approached the 16th Street BART Plaza.
Just as it was on the street, the atmosphere there was peaceful and friendly. No one seemed particularly riled up and most attendees only half listened to those who had taken over the megaphone for a few quick stump speeches before the bands started to play. A young woman who identified herself as an intern with Housing Rights wandered around asking people to sign her petition for Prop G. Most politely obliged, and one man went as far as making a vague David and Goliath reference.
Most seemed worried about where to get water and concentrated on the food, of which there was plenty.
“We were talking about how I used to live on 15th and Capp Street right across from Marshall Elementary,” said Leila Mansur while holding a plate of said food. “They only cleaned up that corner when luxury condos came in. The school wasn’t enough to get that cleaned up.”
“But right before you came over, we were talking about the food. It’s so healthy!,” she exclaimed, showing off the kale, melon, and black beans on her paper plate.