A day of hard rain and wind could not dampen the spirits of activists representing the 99% as they gathered at Justin Herman Plaza (dubbed Bradley Manning Plaza by locals) in San Francisco on Friday, January 20th, 2012, to mark the dark anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision with a day of action. Organized by a coalition of over 55 Bay Area organizations and dozens of OccupySF affinity groups, protestors disrupted business as usual with demands that banks end predatory evictions and foreclosures and that corporations lose the rights of personhood. The day was called Occupy Wall Street West (OWSW), alluding to the power of the SF financial district and state in the global market -- California is the 9th largest economy in the world. Activists executed plans for traditional nonviolent direct action to block the doors to big banks, effectively shutting down Wells Fargo Corporate Headquarters and occupying Bank of America's main branch. And then came a surprise tactic: dance
A flash mob called "One People" converged on the plaza affront the building that houses Bank of America and Goldman Sachs and commenced with a freeze. A single dancer called out "Mic check!" and the group responded, "Mic check!" and commenced a piercing scream of anguish, which collapsed into a die-in and then transformed into an upbeat dance. The dance gave a positive message for our collective future with creative prowess, illustrating a cry of pain against oppression and injustice, and, through street theater, invoking a powerful bridge of reconciliation between the 1% and the 99%. This is a bridge that can only span the chasm of class divide through significant financial reform and the recognition of shared humanity. The dance finished with a chorus singing "Now is the Time," words from Dr. Martin Luther King's iconic "I Have a Dream" speech, apropos to the actual time, since Dr. King's birthday was observed a few days earlier.
"The flash mob gives the opportunity for people across generations and walks of life to voice their rage and dreams for the future through public art," said Magalie Bonneau-Marcil, who produced the flash mob and founded Dancing Without Borders. Former world-class athlete Bonneau-Marcil is using the organizing skills she learned from collaborative training for the Olympics to work for social justice. She started Dancing without Borders in August, 2011, to reclaim the healing and unifying power of free-form dance and flash mob as a ritual, community-building and empowerment vehicle for real change.
The One People flash mob appealed to many who felt an urge to support the message behind Occupy but were not inspired by picketing and marching. It brought together dozens of dancers between 8 and 80 years old, of all socio-economic backgrounds. For many, this was their first direct action and their first time dancing in the streets. It also brought together three women-led organizations: Dancing Without Borders, CODEPINK, and the San Francisco chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Leaders of these groups believe that the power of the feminine is essential in cultivating this new movement, and sought to emphasize the role of women's creative leadership through their collaboration on this project. CODEPINK has started a network of women across Occupies to weave this connection even further (see www.womenoccupy.org).