After a tense standoff with protesters at the Occupy SF encampment on Justin Herman Plaza, city officials dismantled the camp early this morning, transforming the six-week-old tent city housing hundreds of people back to its original state in a matter of hours.
The much-anticipated raid came after weeks of actions by police that clipped the size of the group’s encampments, first by taking out a line of tents along Market Street called the Bridge, then by disbanding the original base camp outside the Federal Reserve Building.
Last Thursday, in an incident the press dubbed the Battle of the Barricades, police set up barricades along the perimeter of the camp, which created a tense situation and heightened fears of a raid.
This morning’s raid, which began at 1:45, caught occupiers completely off guard. Police quickly surrounded the camp and occupiers were given five minutes to collect their belongings and leave, or face arrest.
Throughout the night, at least 40 arrests were observed, though no official numbers were available at press time.
“I woke up and heard, ‘Raid, raid, raid,’” recounted Robert Benson. “It happened so fast.”
One occupier who was arrested, William “Red” Hollis, recounted how, after he refused to leave the plaza, police threw him to the ground and rubbed his face into the pavement. He had a number of cuts and bruises on his cheek and ear. Hollis was cited and released.
It was a tense night as protesters defied an order to get out of Market Street. They dragged tables and chairs from nearby businesses and set them up in front of the police line. Meanwhile, Department of Public Works employees dismantled the camp behind the line, tossing tents, belongings and supplies into parked garbage trucks.
James, who lived at the camp for two months, said he was in Chinatown when he saw all the lights from the police vehicles. He knew something was up.
“SFPD is so indifferent about this,” he said, pointing to the line of officers. “Look at them. Hundreds of people are homeless overnight.”
Unlike the last raid in Oakland, when police dismantled the camp on Frank Ogawa Plaza in a nonviolent manner, the SFPD used force against protesters in a number of incidents.
After the occupiers were dislodged from their camp, a minor scuffle broke out on Market as a group of riot police and some officers riding dirt bikes chased a number of protesters.
A few protesters grabbed at the officers on bikes as they rode up to people, and a number of riot police used batons to pushed people back while an arrest was being made.
Police also made quick blitzes on the hundred or so people who were protesting on Market Street, making group arrests in the process. On the first occasion, police warned protesters to get on the sidewalk; when they failed to do so, riot police quickly surrounded at least 20 protesters and arrested them.
This reporter saw police push two protesters from a sidewalk along Market Street into the street, where they were arrested along with the others.
The second time police moved on the protesters, there was no warning. As frantic protesters tried to break for the sidewalk, a few were pushed to the ground by the charging riot police; one officer used his baton to move people into the street.
Protesters plan to rally at noon today outside the Ferry Building and again at 6 p.m., to determine what happens next.
My wife and I took pictures at Occupy SF, which attempt to convey who the people are behind the Occupy SF movement. We were struck by the sense of community that Occupy SF provided to the inhabitants, as a safe place to sleep was a high priority for many. While we normally post SF wedding photography on our blog, given the breaking news, we wanted to post our photos and interviews of Occupy SF, including fashion shots of the protesters, to provide an alternative perspective (http://bowerbirdphoto.blogspot.com/2011/12/occupy-sf-occupied-by-sf-police-today.html)
Thank God. Can’t wait until the park is done being decontaminated so we can get back to the bocce ball court that these illegal protestors were illegally occupying.
Thanks, Chief Suhr! Thanks, Mayor Lee!
I was actually there as well, arriving to work at a cafe in the neighborhood. From what I saw, I didn’t see much aggression from either side, aside from on Occupy protester grabbing onto a police officer.
What I don’t get is how people who were told to move out of the middle of Market St. were subsequently arrested with no warning? I was there, and the raid was sudden, but if they’d been told to vacate the middle of the street, that sounds like a warning. I mean, they were defying an order, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
Justin Herman Plaza is public place and not a place for citizens to plant their tents there. It wasn’t an area for people to sleep there. If they were homeless before, they’re homeless now. I’m sick of people complaining about how they’re homeless now. Seriously? How about going to someone’s lawn and camp there? It’s the same thing. If you want to protest, find another way, as you can see it’s not working. Honestly, no one cares..
Police should not be pushing protesters from the sidewalk into the street in order to arrest them.
Regardless of how you feel about the nature of the protests (I support them), this catch and release intimidation tactic is wrong and should result in disciplinary action from SFPD. Thank you John for your ongoing coverage.
We are being subjected to a police state where protesting is not being tolerated. These evictions exemplify the suppression of our civil liberties including the right to organize, one of the basis rights set forth by our founding fathers. Police brutality is running rampant under orders from Governors who have their pockets lined with Wall Street and Special Interest monies. Stand up and lend your voice with these free posters I was compelled to design on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/11/propaganda-for-occupy-movement.html
How retro. Obviously Ed Lee doesn’t know that ship has sailed. But why would he? It’s winter time,time to go inside. Meanwhile thanks to the public fortune they’ve spent on police riot gear, the police had a riot returning justin hermann park to the its original idiot vacancy state, a place where no one sits, or lies, or worse – tells the truth.