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May 15 2012 12:00 AM

Mayoral candidate and civil-rights activist Filner describes his experience with Occupy as 'disastrous'

Bob Filner as a young, proud arrestee during the civil--rights movement
When Occupy San Diego took over the plaza outside City Hall, we kept expecting to see Rep. Bob Filner jump into the fray and get himself arrested on principle. Remember, the mayoral candidate has long cited his arrest as a teenage "Freedom Rider" during the civil-rights movement as proof of his commitment to social justice. Even in recent years, he's stated his willingness to risk arrest in defending a constituent's home from foreclosure. Surely, this was the opportunity he's been waiting for decades to arise.

But we never saw Filner down at the occupation. We didn't see him marching, or participating in the general assemblies, or hashing out ideas with activists in Guy Fawkes masks. 

So, when Filner sat down with us for an endorsement interview last week, one of the first questions we asked him was why he wasn't more involved with Occupy Wall Street. His candid answers surprised us. ---

Filner says he did attempt to engage the Washington, DC branch of Occupy, only to find them unwilling to collaborate, even when he was offering to introduce legislation outlining all of their demands.

"It was disastrous," Filner says. "I came away so depressed."

Filner says he was disappointed at the activists' lack of respect and frustrated by their anarchic decision-making processes. He says he found it particularly offensive when Occupy Atlanta wouldn't let civil-rights hero John Lewis speak.

"They didn't want any help," Filner says of the movement. "They didn't have any historical understanding of what people have done in this regard. They had no interest in working with us.... I figured over time they would get a little more sophisticated, and it never happened as far as I can tell."

Nevertheless, Filner says he did visit Occupy San Diego at one point and that he would've handled the situation better than Sanders. He says he would've engaged with the protesters and would not have maintained a large police presence at the site. 

"I would not have used the city power to get rid of them," he says. "I would've encouraged them."


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