Story and photos by Nadin Abbott
November 17, 2011 (San Diego)—Several hundred San Diegans, including East County residents, turned out today in answer to a call to occupy the Clairemont Bridge.
Occupy San Diego organized the protest to stress how much maintenance our infrastructure needs. The march started with a chant urging Congressman Brian Bilbray to “fix this bridge.” Occupiers called for infrastructure jobs to put Americans back to work and resolve safety issues with this bridge and others. View a video by Jerry Malamud.
Some spoke out on other issues--including Bertha Popeney and Margaret Klingensmitch from La Mesa.
They met today for the first time at the Mission Bay Visitor Center. Mrs. Popeney said that she came because she “has lost 96% of my investments” and that “corporate greed rewards the CEO.” She was angry about the bail out which she called “immoral and unjust to society and working people.” She is a retired teacher and clergy member. Margaret Klingensmitch came answering a call from Move On; she is a member of the National Education Association and is angry about attacks on education.
The March took a more organized feel once Lorena Gonzales, secretary treasurer of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Laborr Council, instructed the marchers on how the occupation was to take place. She and the occupiers negotiated with San Diego Police on how to do this safely. Gonzales reminded everyone that if anything fell from the bridge, that was a felony.
As marchers walked on to the bridge they lined on the northern side and displayed banners and American Flags, which was received well by the evening rush traffic, with many a sympathetic honk. On some news sites, however, a few commuters posted comments voicing frustration over delays.
While on the bridge I talked to Cindy, from Mission Valley, who did not want to give me her last name. I asked her what brought her out of the house, as she was still using a walker after a recent surgery. She told me “you need to get out of the house for a reason and this is a good cause.”
The mood changed as the main part of the rally started, with speakers. Gonzales made it clear that labor and the occupiers are in the same fight for the 99%, drawing applause. She also said that Labor was going to continue to support the occupation. She noted that ever since this started the national conversation has changed.
Tod Lemmon from the building trades asked Congressman Brian Bilbray to put Americans to work and support the “Americans Jobs Act.”
Ray Trujillo, a retired worker and long time labor activist told the crowd, “This was our day, this is our bridge, this is our labor council, this is the 99%.” He also reminded the crowd that veterans have stood in between the police and the occupiers, protecting the occupiers.
John Kenney, who is on the tenth day of a hunger strike to try to get the attention of the City Council to support the occupy movement, told the crowd that he loved this movement and was proud of them. Then Mr. Frank Luntz led the crowd in a chant thanking the police for doing a good job, adding, “We love you when you do your job.”
The legal team for Occupy San Diego took the bullhorn to announce that a lawsuit filed against the City is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday afternoon. This case alleges violation of free speech, as ECM previously reported (http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/7800) and revolves around San Diego Municipal Code section 54.0110. The legal expert also stated that this is the first time since the 1960s that so many lawyers are working pro bono. The case is being pursued by the National Lawyers Guild, and Canvas for a Cause, as well as former city attorney Mike Aguirre.
Marchers moved off the bridge peacefully and Occupy MIssion Bay held its first General Assembly on the East Side of the Mission Bay Visitor Center.