Unlike their counterparts in New York who are living large at luxury hotels, some Northern California “occupiers” can relate more to the common 99%. They merely strive to stay at a Hyatt.
Gerri Field stood with hundreds of protesters in front of Tiffany’s in Walnut Creek this week, railing against economic injustice at the top of her lungs and drawing approving honks from passing cars with her sign, “Heal America, Tax Wall Street.”
For two sunny midday hours, the crowd did its best to “occupy” the busiest intersection in town, Mount Diablo Boulevard and North Main Street, singing “This Land Is Your Land” and denouncing corporate greed and the ultrarich 1 percent.
Then it was time for lunch. Time to put the signs away.
No thrown bottles at police. No tear gas or cops in sight. And certainly no tents.
“Camping? My idea of camping is a room in the Hyatt,” said Field, a 50-year-old schoolteacher. “That’s not what my protest is about.”
In the suburbs, the Occupy movement has a whole different flavor.
And there is, unbeknownst to many, a lot of occupying being done beyond big city borders. At least 30 Occupy movements exist from Santa Cruz north through Alameda and Concord to Vacaville, Napa and Santa Rosa.
The message is the same as in the big cities. But most of those movements, with a few notable exceptions such as Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa, don’t involve tents, and even there the method is mellower – more upscale, less rageful, cleaner.
Unlike the Occupy camps in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, homeless people and clashes with police have not dominated the imagery.
“A tent city in a place like this would alienate too many people,” psychologist Jane Vinson, 77, said at the Thursday demonstration in Walnut Creek, which drew about 300 people and was purposefully situated near a Bank of America branch.
“Our culture does include Neiman Marcus as well as the Apple store, and a tent city would just attract angry people who would muddy our message.”
“We have to find shopping places and traffic centers to get our message out, and it helps to have some humor to get attention.”