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Standing amongst a group of forgotten, unshaven and dirty characters under a San Francisco freeway off-ramp, my eyes can’t believe what they are seeing: a modern day mining camp, complete with a BBQ, chairs, a laundry area, pets, and tools of every size and shape. Amidst the stinking heaps of trash, towering piles of disregarded be- longings, and remnants of stripped electrical cables and other components, exists a camp like no other. Six people have been living in this small wedge of a space for years with all the amenities that one could imagine.


The group consists of a motley crew of characters: veteran scrappers who have more than 10 years of experience, a few newbies, and a plethora of passer byes from other camps visiting to share drugs, info, food, and conversation. The scrappers worked vigorously over six months to extract as much of the metal from an old nearby build- ing as possible. The owner of the building tried various measures to keep them out, such as welding their access points shuts. The scrappers were never be deterred. Where there’s a will there’s a way, they always told me. “They keep sealing up, and we’ll keep finding our way in.”


But due to an increase in illegal scrapping, the local scrap yards had been hit by under- cover police raids and a new restriction was put in place at the scrap yards. No scrap would be bought unless it came in by car. No longer could the scrappers bring it in by bike or foot. Nor could scrappers sell stolen scrap, manhole covers, Cal-trans road signs, or any other scrap that bear special markings of the owner, or origin. Desperate for money the members of the group sold their scrap this way to turn a very fast buck, with no questions asked. [Andre Hermann]


08 I


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