The overnight police raid of the Occupy SF encampment at San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza drew a mixed reaction from protesters and passersby this morning.
Police said about 70 people were arrested in the raid on the plaza at the foot of Market Street, which had been occupied by protesters for about two months.
David Ritchie, who had been at the camp for a little over two weeks, said he was one of those arrested. Ritchie said he was taken to the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. before being released.
“It’s so disheartening,” he said. “People were being treated like animals.”
Ritchie said some protesters were beaten with police batons, and others had their belongings taken away in a garbage truck.
But Stanley Martin, another protester who said he had been at the encampment for about six weeks, said the Occupy SF movement has itself to blame.
“The city gave us every opportunity to keep the park clean” and offered an alternate site for the protesters near 16th and Mission streets, Martin said.
However, protesters could not come to a consensus on whether to relocate.
“If we had taken that, we would’ve beaten City Hall,” Martin said.
Mayor Ed Lee released a statement this morning saying, “I have made it clear to protesters that overnight camping at Justin Herman Plaza and on Market Street is not a sustainable or safe environment for protesters, the general public or city staff.”
Lee said the city “took a measured and balanceliaison team designated by Occupy SF deteriorated to a point where it was clear no progress could be made.”
Lee said, “In order to maintain public health, public safety and return the plaza for everyone’s use, city agencies peacefully and orderly ended the encampment at Justin Herman Plaza.”
People walking by the plaza this morning had varying opinions on the raid.
“I’m shocked that it’s empty,” said John Bautista, who was on his way to work.
“I know they’re trying to stand up for the 99 percent, and I’m glad they were trying to finally bring the issue into light, so I’m sad to see that they’re gone,” he said.
Jim Bradley, a retiree who was on his way to meet a friend, said he agreed with the spirit of the protests but said, “I think it’s gone on long enough.”
Bradley said, “I don’t think they were going about it the right way.”
While the plaza was being steam-cleaned by city crews and guarded by police, a man dressed in a suit and tie took a confrontational stance against the handful of protesters who were still milling about the area.
“Occupy your life!” he yelled before walking away.
On the Occupy SF website, organizers said they are planning two rallies today near the site of the encampment–a noon rally at 101 Market St. and a 6 p.m. rally next to Justin Herman Plaza.
“This movement cannot be contained, and it cannot be stopped,” a message on the Occupy SF website stated.
Mayor Lee’s said in his statement, “We expect people to continue their Occupy protest movement and the city will continue to respect and facilitate everyone’s fundamental right to peacefully assemble and protest.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News