cityhall3.jpgMembers of the “Occupy SF” movement who have been camping out in Justin Herman Plaza in solidarity with New York’s “Occupy Wall Street” protests are holding a rally today to call on city officials to allow them to stay in the plaza.

On Sunday night, police in riot gear arrested five protesters who were part of the group that had set up tents in Justin Herman Plaza.

Police told the demonstrators that city laws prohibited camping there, and when protesters refused to take down the tents, officers removed them themselves and placed them into city vehicles.

Four of the protesters were arrested for being in the roadway illegally and resisting arrest, and the fifth was arrested for battery on a police officer. All five were cited and released, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.

According to the Occupy SF website, the protesters will rally outside San Francisco City Hall at 1:30 p.m. today to “bring attention to excessive force against peaceful occupiers” and to call on Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors to protect their right to assemble.

Some San Francisco supervisors, including John Avalos and board president David Chiu, have already expressed support for the Occupy SF protesters.

In a statement released after Sunday’s arrests, Chiu said, “As long as the Occupy SF protesters are obeying the law, the city should respect their rights of peaceful assembly and free speech.”

Lee released a statement earlier this month about the protests, saying he supported the spirit of the movement.

However, he said, “While allowing for peaceful protests, we also must ensure that our streets and sidewalks remain safe and accessible for everyone. I will continue to work closely with our police chief to ensure San Francisco responds appropriately to these demonstrations.”

Those participating in today’s rally plan on attending a 2 p.m. Board of Supervisors meeting to speak during the public comment period.

The anti-Wall Street rallies started in New York City in September and have spread nationwide, including to several Bay Area cities.

The groups cite an economic disparity between the richest 1 percent of the population and the other 99 percent, and are calling for increased regulation of banks and Wall Street investment firms, among other demands.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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