Dozens of protesters were arrested Monday afternoon after police raided a vacant building that had been taken over Sunday by members of Occupy San Francisco.
The building, at 888 Turk St. in the Western Addition, had been occupied since Sunday evening by dozens of demonstrators who dubbed it the “San Francisco Commune.” According to a brochure they distributed at the site, it was intended to be “a perpetual, autonomous headquarters for the Occupy SF movement.”
Police had cordoned off the area in front of the building by Monday morning, and police spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak said they decided to enter in the early afternoon because the building had been fortified and items that could be used as weapons were piled on the roof.
Andraychak said police notified the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which owns the building, and at some point Monday a church official signed a form for a citizen’s arrest. Police said Monday evening that 75 protesters had been arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing.
A diocesan spokesman said the compound was part of nearby Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory High School and that at least one building had been used for classes as recently as 18 months ago. Signage indicated that 888 Turk St. had once been a mental health clinic.
After police cleared out the last of the protesters, they led the media on a tour of the building, which was badly vandalized but appeared to have been poorly maintained. Protesters had fortified doors and windows with plywood, hardware and furniture and painted anti-corporate slogans on nearly every wall. Sleeping bags, food, fliers and personal items littered the floors, and some doors had been broken down by police.
“It looked like they were planning to be here for a while,” Andraychak said.
Robert Benson, a longtime Occupy SF demonstrator who was inside the building Monday, said the protesters had hoped to draw attention to the issue of homelessness and would have used the building to provide social services. The takeover also put the spotlight back on Occupy, which was dormant throughout most of the winter.
“I think it’s a welcome consequence,” Benson said of the publicity.