In the strongest crackdown on Occupy San Francisco tactics since the movement began in September, District Attorney George Gascón announced Thursday that some demonstrators will be charged with misdemeanors and felonies — a far more serious punishment than the citations they normally receive when arrested.
In a statement, Gascón pointed out the increased vandalism and violence during Tuesday’s May Day protests, which Occupy held in solidarity with labor groups. Earlier this week, many Occupiers said the vandals “weren’t with us” and decried the destructive acts, including a protester launching bricks from the top of a seized building and a small riot that damaged several small businesses in the Mission district.
Gascón said he counts himself among “the millions of Americans who support the right to protest and agrees with the original intent of the Occupy movement’s efforts to call out financial institutions and their role in causing economic inequalities,” but Tuesday’s transgressions cannot be ignored.
“While a majority of protesters were peaceful and law-abiding, we must hold accountable those who cross the line,” Gascón said.
Five of the approximately 25 people arrested Wednesday morning at an abandoned building — seized by protesters and dubbed the “San Francisco Commune” — will be charged with crimes. Four suspects, all of whom also were arrested in connection with taking over the same building at Turk and Gough streets April 1, will be charged with misdemeanor trespassing.
The other, identified as 34-year-old Jesse Nesbitt, will face two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon, two felony counts of assault on a police officer and one felony count of vandalism. He is accused of lobbing a brick from the rooftop in the direction of police, but instead hitting a fellow Occupier.
The original takeover of the building, which is owned by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, did $25,000 in damage, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Gascón also announced Thursday that he will visit Mission district merchants and encourage members of the public to donate to a fund and help them recover from vandalism.