Leary of the chaos that consumed Market Street and much of downtown last year, at the dawn of Gulf War II, swarms of police wearing riot helmets and wielding billy clubs were prepared to contain Direct Action to Stop the War’s 7 a.m. gathering at Justin Herman Plaza and subsequent Bechtel Headquarters protest. But when a sub-group that had continued marching up Market turned onto Page Street, the police where caught off-guard. Occupied by keeping people on the sidewalks, distracted police were unable to prevent a group of about 25 squatters’ rights activists from storming through the entrance of an unoccupied building at 47 Page Street. The Autonomous Collective, a local anti-capitalist group, orchestrated the morning-long stand-off in order to draw attention to the affordable housing shortage and rampant homelessness that continue to plague San Francisco.
“Last night was the first time I slept in a bed in a month,” said Purple, a homeless youth, from inside the cavernous squat. “It’s really encouraging to see people unite to demand shelter, because this place is a lot better than Golden Gate Park. That crazy place is full of junkies who want to fight all the time. It’s not safe, plus if I can’t afford a place to sleep, how am I supposed to afford a ticket for sleeping outside?”