Advocates of Occupy SF want to bring more attention to dirty dealings between corporations and politicians. But The City’s Department of Public Health issued a warning to the movement’s campers on Tuesday that they are also dirty — in a more literal sense.
A notice issued by the department to the occupants of Justin Herman Plaza on Tuesday warned that the encampment posed an “imminent public health hazard.” The notice highlighted “evidence” of human waste at the site, including feces, vomit, containers of urine and a pile of tampons attracting flies.
Health officials did not elaborate on the extent of the mess — and declined to compare it with any given street corner in the Tenderloin.
“It was enough to be visible,” said Eileen Shields, a spokeswoman for DPH. “Most members of the public have a low level of tolerance for human feces.”
Campers at the plaza Wednesday called the warning an exaggeration. Some said The City is coming up with excuses to justify a third police raid in less than a month on their fledgling tent city.
“I’ve seen dog waste, but that has been picked up,” said Robb Benson, a camper who took it upon himself to rent a $118-per-month portable toilet dropped off Wednesday.
Benson said the bathroom is necessary because of the long line that develops at night to use the public toilet in the plaza. While The City has provided portable toilets at Occupy SF’s original camp outside the Federal Reserve Bank on Market Street, none had been delivered to Justin Herman Plaza as of Wednesday afternoon.
Several members of the camp were tidying up as reporters prowled the scene Wednesday, but advocates said that’s just part of daily chores — health warning or not. Beth Seligman, who was offering information to passers-by at a table, said Occupy SF has even partitioned a sanitation committee that meets regularly.
The protestors continue to be in violation of city codes — outlined in a letter sent by police Chief Greg Suhr on Tuesday — and could be raided any time. Mayor Ed Lee said Wednesday that conditions at the Justin Herman Plaza camp had been deteriorating and he expected that protestors would soon have to be removed.
“My policy has been straightforward on this,” Lee said. “People have been given warning after warning.”
Reports of nastiness at the San Francisco camp pale in comparison to its Oakland counterpart, which has reportedly been plagued with fights, public sex and rats. Hundreds of protesters there clashed with police Tuesday night, leading to mass arrests.
The police action across the Bay and in San Jose has prompted some in the Occupy SF camp to advocate for a combined Bay Area “megacamp” in the Joseph Alioto Performing Arts Piazza across from San Francisco’s City Hall. The idea has been met with mixed reactions, with some wanting to maintain the main point of protest near the Federal Reserve Bank, while others see the larger space and central location as an improvement.
“It’s a great idea,” said Joe Rinaldi, an advocate of the movement, which has no clear goals but generally expresses a disdain for the influence of corporations and the rich on politics and society. “Walking from any direction, people will see, and they will come to support us.”
Occupy SF timeline