OccupySF: From the Fringe to USF

by Caitlin Dally, Student Organizer

The occupy movements across the nation have been captivating to watch unfold from Wall Street to Market Street here in San Francisco. For almost a month people have been outside, unwilling to return to their homes without an answer for change. Whether you support them or not you better take notice.

On Wednesday October 12th, I decided to check out the Occupy SF protests and campsite for myself, which occurred in front of the Federal Reserve Building. After reading about and watching footage - Hide quoted text - from the protests in New York City, I was curious to see how the ideals from Wall Street had materialized and organized themselves in San Francisco. My curiosity and hopefulness soon turned to disappointment. It appeared that the anarchist community living on the streets, as well as some summer-of-love leftovers, emigrated from their typical postings at Haight Street and the Panhandle to the steps of the Federal Reserve. The demonstrators toted signs of protest from San Francisco’s past, such as, “War is over, if you want it” and “flower power.” Anti-war signage, daisy chain head wreaths, and hippy meditation enveloped the streets, seeming to reinforce the cliché of San Franciscan radicalism and thus more destructive than constructive for the movement and its image.

Defeated, I crossed the street turning back around to USF. Soon after, however, I looked back at the demonstrators and saw a woman holding her young daughter with signs around their necks. I returned to the demonstrations to find out what had drawn such a normal, mainstream woman to the protest.

Jodie has three children, is in her mid-thirties, and went to college during the time of the South African apartheid – the last time she had participated in a protest. It was her first day there and she felt like she needed to represent people outside of what she calls “The Fringe,” at the Federal Reserve as well as wanting to set an example for her kids about expressing themselves and their beliefs. When I approached her asking her why she was on the street, she was near tears. She expressed grave fear for what the future holds for her children. Her sign read, “Our children’s future should be bright.” Speaking to her made me return to my initial jubilation of the Wall Street movement. Meeting and speaking to her reminded me of what this movement means to me, that this seedling revolution is about us, the future.

As a senior majoring in a non-descript field, I am not exactly on the pathway to a career, success, and sustainable living. However, I also know I am not alone. One of the solutions I believe is pertinent for the occupy movement to integrate is community investment into their vision for a “new economic system.” Community investment, an investment strategy where investors and lenders direct capital to communities that are underserved by traditional financial services firms, has the potential to answer the demands of the Wall Street protesters. If USF were to divest from Bank of America, one of the worst banks in America, the funds directed from the school’s endowment to community investment assets would provide underserved communities with access to credit, equity, capital and basic banking products that these communities would otherwise lack. By simply placing USF’s cash (our money) from the endowment, into a community bank with equal and fair rates, USF would benefit, as would our surrounding community in San Francisco.

The idealist in me has a lot of hope for the occupy movement. I am heading to New York City for the REC national conference and am excited to visit the demonstrations at Wall Street and be a witness to history unfolding. Despite my enthusiasm, the realist inside of me also recognizes that at some point the protests will end. After that point, what will come? Historians have always been the quickest to remind us that the rebuilding and restructuring of a new society after the revolution are the most difficult parts. USF has the opportunity to do something very easy: moving money. This can provide a more effective alternative to create a better America- constructing an economic system that does serve the 99%.

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