A day that is expected to be filled with anti-establishment protests all around the globe began early last night with a roving band of "anarchists" smashing car windows and store fronts in San Francisco's Mission District. The mini-riot (which was technically on April 30, but still) may have started as a "ruckus street party" organized by Occupy Oakland protesters who invaded their sister city last night, but whoever was responsible appeared to show little regard for the property of either the 1% or the other 99.
Various witness accounts say a group of between 50 and 100 people moved down Valencia St. smashing windows, throwing paint balls, and even attacking an unsuspecting police station. The cops were apparently not prepared to make mass arrests and were slow to respond to the chaos, though it quickly broke up. The blog, Mission Local, has a good round up of the scene from last night.
Many in the Occupy movement are blaming outsiders and "Black Bloc" anarchists who have a habit of hijacking peaceful protests for the own purposes. Unfortunately, most regular citizens won't know or care to make the distinction — particularly if they wake to find their automobiles destroyed. Every thing that happens during today's highly anticipated general strike, the good and the bad, will likely be conflated with larger Occupy Wall Street movement and destroying local business and poverty will win the cause few new friends.
Tensions are likely to be pretty high, especially in New York City, were some leading organizers were reportedly visited at home by New York police and FBI agents yesterday who interviewed them about their plans. (The high temperatures and 80% chance of rain won't help either.) It remains to be seen if other May Day events will encounter problems like we saw in San Francisco last night, but the NYPD is obviously expecting some trouble and will likely be better prepared for it than most police forces. Anarchists or no anarchists, we've all seen how quickly a peaceful protest can turn violent.