This afternoon news came to VentureBeat’s front door in the form of an Occupy Wall Street protest in the lobby of our building. Around a hundred Occupy protesters streamed into a Bank of America branch at 50 California Street, located in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district.
Tenants in our 36-story building were told to shelter-in-place, a term more commonly used by Homeland Security in the case of terrorist threats or hazardous materials spills. Naturally, we had to go see what the fuss was about.
The protesters were originally part of a “ReFund Public Education” march that began in Justin Herman Plaza at noon. Around one o’clock, protesters arrived at the Bank of America and asked to speak to BoA board member Monica Lozano. Bank employees asked them to leave, but about three dozen of the protesters, mostly UCSC students angry about a new tuition hike, opted to stick around and pitch a tent inside the branch.
Police arrived right away, and officers in riot gear calmly filed into the bank while demonstrators settled in. The protesters sat down on the floor and perched on desks, alternately chanting, clapping and quietly waiting for the police to make a move. One woman used the downtime to charge her iPhone, plugging it in at an abandoned desk. Another gathered the names and phone numbers of protesters and taped the list to window for a legal worker outside.
The sit-in was clearly visible from the street through the large bank windows, and it drew a mixed crowd of spectators, other protesters, legal workers and journalists. After an hour, police started to carefully arrest demonstrators one-by-one and load them into a waiting police bus. We shot this video of the action: