Members of Occupy San Jose have been camping on the City Hall plaza since Oct. 2 to protest economic inequalities in this country.
At a typical service at First Unitarian Church in San Jose, a homosexual atheist could be sitting next to a black Buddhist holding hands with his Hindu wife. Nancy Palmer Jones looks out over this service of 160 people each Sunday.
“It’s like a little picture of the world,” she says.
Bringing together a variety of viewpoints, Jones says her church’s goal is “to take from all wisdom sources in world.” There is also an emphasis placed on tolerance and social justice. When one Unitarian member from Palo Alto first talked to Jones about a group that was protesting corporate greed and economic inequalities in San Jose, the reverend was all ears. “I do believe there is a tide turning that is calling us as U.S. citizens for a more compassionate, justice-centered system,” Jones says.
Last Sunday, members of Jones’ congregation joined Occupy San Jose at the City Hall rally. They weren’t the only newcomers. The South Bay Labor Council also lent its official support to the occupation last week. For the first time in a while, public employees weren’t being attacked like political pi–atas. Even the harshest critic of pensions in Silicon Valley, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, seems to be a supporter of the 99-percent movement.
“I have a lot of sympathy for some of the issues they’ve raised,” Reed says. “San Jose has its own argument with Wall Street bankers.”
The city is currently embroiled in a multi-million dollar anti-trust lawsuit with Wall Street. The complaint, which includes other cities, claims brokers and municipal-derivative providers rigged the market for city bonds. The lawsuit names Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, UBS, Citibank, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and others as defendants.
Sympathy only extends so far when it comes to city code, though, which is why protesters are being ordered to move off the plaza.
In 2008, the city didn’t enforce code that forbids protesters from camping at City Hall. Ly Tong, a Vietnamese activist, camped on the plaza for roughly a month because he wanted a section of Councilmember Madison Nguyen’s district to be called “Little Saigon.”
Matt Morley, the deputy director of the Public Works department, says the city regrets that decision and has been in contact with protesters about not being allowed to camp out past 11pm.
“It’s better to work with people than try to create a burden on the police department and a burden on the jails, if it gets that far,” Morley says. “I don’t think anybody wants that.”
A showdown was expected last Friday night but no one from the police department or city arrived at the scene. Instead, a few of the protesters moved to avoid fines to the less-trafficked area in front of the Peace and Justice Center.
It’s still too early to say how the fractured camps will affect the local movement. But the mayor thinks both locations miss the point.
“They ought to be over in front of the federal building,” Reed says. “They’re kind of missing some symbolism.”