Occupy Berkeley opts-out of protest at Chase Bank, holds info session

Tony Zhou/Staff
Protesters prop up signs outside of the Chase bank on Shattuck Avenue.

Outside Chase Bank in Downtown Berkeley Saturday morning, four men from Occupy Berkeley stood patiently, handing out fliers and making small talk with passers-by.

The men did not chant slogans condemning big banks or make any calls to action that have marked protests that are part of the Occupy movement over the last few months. But this was not, in fact, a protest — it was more of a casual informative session outside the bank.

“Today’s a reach-out day, not so much a march and a rally,” said John Holzinger, a UC Berkeley junior who is involved in the Berkeley movement.

The group, whose number fluctuated between four and eight people during the day, began distributing fliers at around 10 a.m. and planned to keep going until they simply ran out of fliers, according to Berkeley resident Russell Bates, who has spent the night at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park — where Occupy Berkeley protesters have staged an encampment since Oct. 15.

Though demonstrators originally planned to shut down Chase Bank in a protest — where they would block patrons from entering the bank and eventually spread to the nearby Wells Fargo and Bank of America branches — the Occupy Berkeley general assembly made a sudden decision about one and a half days prior to hold an information session instead, according to Nick Dominguez, who has been involved in the movement.

Dominguez said the image that more physically aggressive protests have given off in the past is not necessarily one that the Occupy Berkeley general assembly wanted to be associated with.

Another activist on the scene, Jaime Alvaro, acknowledged the significant change in tactics — something he felt was equally important as the bold and in-your-face style of previous demonstrations at Chase Bank.

“For me, both ways are effective,” Alvaro said. “But we also need to reach people with the facts on financial institutes.”

Throughout the demonstration, those going in and out of Chase Bank were left mostly undisturbed, save for the flier routinely pushed their way. In other words, it was business as usual.

“I know we’re small,” Holzinger said. “But when people go around working together, the impact grows and grows. That’s what I believe.”