The Occupy Wall Street movement that took root in New York City four weeks ago has taken hold in the Bay Area, with scores of demonstrators camping out on city property to talk about corporate greed and government corruption.
The movement's first local incarnation arrived in San Francisco last week and has spread to Oakland, San Jose, San Ramon and Walnut Creek.
About 50 people, including Oakland Councilwoman Desley Brooks, camped out Monday night on the lawn in front of City Hall as part of the Occupy Oakland protest. By early Tuesday evening, it had grown to more than 60 tents, from one-person pup tents to 10-foot-tall tarp-covered lounges. Some campers predicted they could remain there for at least anothertwo weeks unless they see fast action from local governments to address rampant joblessness and other hardships grinding down Oakland's underclass.
The commitment was further reflected by the installation of a handful of portable toilets, paid for by the Oakland Education Association, the SEIU Local 1021 union and Everett and Jones Barbeque.
Everett and Jones owner Dorothy Everett said she is outraged by what she sees as a callous government attitude toward the poor and middle class and by big banks' unwillingness to help out.
She was joined in what she calls "Occupy Alley" by Brooks and an assortment of people representing a wide variety of backgrounds -- from business leaders and teachers to families and students to the
The Occupy demonstrations have come under fire from critics who say there isn't enough coherency to the movement, and that a lack of leadership or concrete demands is creating a problem and giving a sense of aimlessness to the protests.
But unemployed Oakland resident and City Hall camper Alex Matkin, 26, said that's the wrong way to look at it.
The point right now, he said, is less about issuing demands, and more about bringing together a community with economic problems that are wide-ranging, but unifying.
"We're not protesting," he said. "We're out here discussing these issues. That's our legitimacy: We're working toward something and doing it together."
Brooks, who represents the Eastmont-Seminary district, was among protesters emerging Tuesday morning from several tents pitched in Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. Brooks said her goal was to show solidarity with the demonstrators, despite the campers violating city codes by staying in the plaza.
Sue Piper, a spokeswoman for Oakland Mayor Jean Quan's office, said the order of the day is to "keep it cool."
For now, Piper said, police won't be asked to clear the plaza of campers unless public safety issues begin.
Stella Rose, 23, stayed overnight and said she plans to spend another night in the downtown Oakland square. Police patrolled the perimeter but it was otherwise quiet, and the protesters were left undisturbed, Rose said.
The protest began Monday afternoon at 14th Street and Broadway when about 500 demonstrators, following the lead of Occupy Wall Street, rallied in the rain against widespread unemployment and what they call corporate greed.
Several local House members are voicing their support for the protesters.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said in an email Tuesday that she strongly supports "the courageous people who have started Occupy Wall Street and I think they deserve more than our attention.
"In fact, we should all support putting a stop to endless wars, unrestricted corporate greed and massive inequity facing all but the wealthiest few. I am inspired by and will work with those on the front lines of this growing movement."
Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, said in an email that "everybody's got a right to express their opinion and I applaud these folks for organizing to express theirs."
"I understand their frustrations," Stark said. "People want to work, they want to make a fair wage and they don't want to see the out-of-control transfer of wealth that has gone from the middle class to the wealthiest of Americans. It's not right. Hopefully this movement will focus Congress on what should be our top priority -- creating jobs and opportunity for all Americans."
On Tuesday, another group of protesters struck similar chords.
Chanting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, corporate welfare has to go," several dozen members of the public policy advocacy group MoveOn.org gathered outside Chevron's corporate headquarters in San Ramon to protest government subsidization of Big Oil companies.
The demonstrators, who hailed mostly from the Tri-Valley and other cities in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, included several former and current Chevron employees.
"We're looking at the power of big money and it's controlling our country like it hasn't since 1929," said Sheilah Fish, a retired marriage counselor from Moraga and organizer with MoveOn's Central Contra Costa chapter.
The 13-year-old nonprofit group is separate from the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, but MoveOn's leaders said they wanted to take advantage of the public's growing anger to raise awareness of related concerns -- namely the lobbying power and government subsidization of Big Oil companies.
"This is not just aimed at Chevron, this is aimed at all the oils. ... We don't have their money, but we have voices and we have votes," said Karen Beck, an organizer with MoveOn's Tri-Valley chapter.
Meanwhile, in New York City hundreds of anti-Wall Street protesters held a "Millionaires March" on Tuesday past the homes of some of the wealthiest executives in America, stopping to jeer, "Tax the rich!" and "Where's my bailout?"
They paused outside buildings where media mogul Rupert Murdoch, banker Jamie Dimon and oil tycoon David Koch have homes, and decried the impending expiration of New York's 2 percent "millionaires' tax" in December.
In Walnut Creek, the groups Occupy Walnut Creek and Contra Costa 99 Percent plan to protest at 4 p.m. Wednesday near Main Street and Mt. Diablo Boulevard. Protesters say they don't plan to camp.
Demonstrating in Walnut Creek makes sense, said Mike Veiluva, a resident and member of Contra Costa 99 Percent.
"It's absolutely the logical place because, in some ways, it's the heart of the beast," he said.
"You have a lot of people hurting out here. Just because it's Walnut Creek, it's all kept underneath.
"There is wealth inequality here," Veiluva added. "We have people who are just barely getting by and then we have the 1 percent living in these palatial homes on the hills that surround us."
The Associated Press and staff writers Elizabeth Nardi, Jeanine Benca and Josh Richman contributed to this report.