After a tense weekend that included a Saturday march where two protesters allegedly attacked police officers, Occupy San Francisco participants at Justin Herman Plaza say they have seen a spike in new campers.
Police reported two attacks on officers escorting marchers down the Embarcadero Saturday afternoon – one in which they said a woman slashed an officer’s hand before disappearing into the crowd, and another where a protester allegedly pushed and slashed a police officer’s face after another snatched his radio.
Police said they couldn’t locate either attacker on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Occupy SF encampment at Justin Herman Plaza Sunday afternoon has welcomed some 40 new tents over the weekend, according to some campers’ estimates.
While many campers and camp regulars today said the scene at the plaza and at protests has been largely peaceful, the recent influx of new inhabitants has contributed to emerging problems at the camp – from fights among campers and drug and alcohol abuse to a lack of basic supplies.
Around 1:30 p.m. Sunday, a few Occupy SF regulars met in the camp’s library tent to discuss possible approaches to managing drug and alcohol use in the encampment, as well as how to handle physical violence among campers that is often sparked by drugs and alcohol.
“I think it’s a big problem, and it’s giving the movement a black eye,” said Patrick Flanagan, 49, a San Francisco resident who said he frequents the camp, attending meetings and donating food and supplies.
Flanagan and a 22-year-old camper who goes by the name “Giggles” said they and other Occupy SF members hope to bring mental health professionals and social workers to the camp to provide campers–including a large homeless population–with much needed services.
Meanwhile, the camp’s medical tent was staffed this weekend with a rotating crew of about 5 medics, including Joey–a veteran who declined to give his last name–who distribute supplies such as bandages and Tylenol.
Joey said he thinks the camp has gotten safer in recent weeks, and that interactions he’s seen between protesters and police have been mostly peaceful, aside from some aggressive behavior on both sides during Saturday’s march.
“There’s a different crowd here in the daytime – it’s a lot more of a family event,” he said, looking out across the sprawling plaza cluttered with multi-colored tents.
But Joey, Flanagan and several other Occupy SF campers Sunday said they’ve noticed a prevailing party atmosphere throughout much of the camp, and a lessened focus on Occupy’s underlying message.
“I do support the idea of this, and I’m glad people are coming together…but I have noticed the attitude has been more of a party scene than a protest,” said Florence Lai, 20, of Seattle, who stayed at the camp over the weekend.
Lai’s travel companion, 28-year-old Nathan Stewart, compared the nighttime atmosphere at Justin Herman plaza to that of a rowdy bar, but said he didn’t see that behavior escalate further.
Shortly before 2 p.m., police standing on the sidewalk alongside the encampment said there had been no arrests so far today.