About 200 demonstrators in the Occupy SF movement were looking for a place to camp after upward of 80 police dismantled their Market Street encampment early Thursday morning.
San Francisco police and city employees cleared out the camp just after midnight following a Wednesday night warning that the protesters didn’t have required city permits, including permissions for preparing food and temporary occupancy of a sidewalk.
The campers are with the national Occupy Wall Street movement, which has been commandeering spaces near financial institutions in recent weeks to rail against economic disparity.
Officers waited around the corner until the warning expired and then moved in on roughly 200 protesters gathered outside the Federal Reserve Bank. The police action created an existential crisis for the consensus-oriented protesters, with some seeking to maintain good relations with police while others sought to stand their ground, yelling “the police work for the capitalists.”
While some took down tents willingly, others briefly tried to block a truck being used to round up their supplies. In the end, police said there was little violent resistance aside from protester Kevin Hernandez, 26, who was arrested on charges of resisting arrest and assaulting an officer.
Demonstrators characterized it as a heavy-handed tactic “in the dead of night,” but police say their response was humane and progressive.
“There were advocates and outreach people to offer them support and shelter,” said police Officer Albie Esparza, noting that the campers had ample time to move.
As the police moved in, Supervisor John Avalos tried to negotiate with police, issuing a stark warning that any adversity would just be met with more protesters and public interest. Avalos, a candidate for mayor, said he spoke with police Chief Greg Suhr, but the raid proceeded.
“I was trying to make sure the cops were not going to go ballistic,” Avalos said Thursday. “To try and squelch this would only make it bigger. And it’s going to get bigger.”
Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for Mayor Ed Lee, said Lee was in close consultation with Suhr about what to do, but she could not say who made the ultimate decision to dismantle the camp.
Thursday evening, protesters attempted to migrate from outside the Federal Reserve building to Justin Herman Plaza on the waterfront, hoping they would be allowed to camp there. But protesters said police informed them that camping there would result in a similar raid. Thus, about 100 people remained in front of the Federal Reserve through the night without any tents.
Occupy SF organizer Kyle Lesley, 30, of San Francisco said he hopes the authorities will allow the protests to remain peaceful, noting that the main targets of the action are still the Federal Reserve and banks in town.