After police evicted Occupy SF from Justin Herman Plaza in early December, winter set in and the cold weather seemed to dampen most protesters’ enthusiasm for sleeping outdoors.
But over the past few weeks, a small group has quietly re-occupied the sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve building on Market Street, declaring a resurgence of the six-month-old movement.
The weather’s better, I’m not sick like I was, it’s spring, the flowers are blossoming,” said Debra Lujan, 34, an Occupy SF member since October. “It’s so gratifying to see people come by and say, ‘It’s good to see you back!’”
As Lujan spoke Monday, Muni bus drivers honked in apparent support for the protesters’ message, and Occupy SF members handed leaflets to passers-by.
Lujan said she suffered from pneumonia in December and retreated indoors in January to recover. She and a handful of other Occupy SF members later lived at U.N. Plaza in Civic Center, where food is regularly distributed to the homeless.
Occupy SF members said they returned on Feb. 28 to 101 Market St., the original protest site, after an online call to reoccupy Wall Street in New York, along with other U.S. cities.
“We’ve kind of licked our wounds and come back,” said Robert Benson, 38, who has participated in Occupy SF since it began. “What happened was the weather -- it got increasingly hard to be out here. The holidays, we lost a lot of people. And then [the raids] just got so brutal.”
The original Occupy SF encampments, which at one point included scores of tents at Justin Herman Plaza and 101 Market St., were dismantled last year in a series of late-night police raids. The Department of Public Works set up metal barricades around both areas, and throughout the winter they remained empty of protesters, except for the occasional pamphleteer.
So far, the police have responded to the new encampment by rousing protesters from sleep each night and citing them under a state law against illegal lodging. There have been no organized raids of the kind seen last year.
Officer Carlos Manfredi, a Police Department spokesman, confirmed there had been arrests. Most were citations for illegal camping, he said, and one man was arrested after allegedly attempting to steal tools from a Department of Public Works employee.
“We’re monitoring it, we’re facilitating it, we’re engaging with them,” Manfredi said.
Last year, protesters clashed with The City and Mayor Ed Lee over the presence of tents, which were not set up Monday. Protesters said they were avoiding elaborate camping gear so as not to rouse The City’s ire.
Calls to the Mayor’s Office were not returned.