Protesters squatting in a vacant Tenderloin residential hotel may have set up blockades to thwart invading cops, police said.
More than a dozen police officers stormed the building at 587 Eddy St. Monday in an attempt to flush out an unknown number of homeless advocates who broke into the building Sunday and have refused to leave.
But as of noon, cops said they struggled to make contact with the protesters. Officers dealt with a number of obstacles and blockades that may have been intentionally placed inside the building, police spokesman Sgt. Mike Andraychak said.
The activists occupied the building, formerly the Leslie Hotel, as part of the first World Homeless Day. A rally for World Homeless Day was held in Civic Center Sunday.
Miguel Carrera, a spokesman for the activist group, Creative Housing Liberation, said there were 18 people inside the building, and that they would remain there until police remove them.
Officers planned to go room-to-room in all six floors of the building. They hoped to boot out trespassers and also scan for any damage the activists may have caused, Andraychak said.
Police shut down streets surrounding the building due to the operation. Muni had to reroute the 31-Balboa bus line due to the street closure.
Cops have been on scene since Sunday around 5 p.m., after a citizen called 911 to report that around 50 people were blocking traffic in front of the vacant building.
Trespassers are facing misdemeanor charges including trespassing and for obstructing or delaying a police officer, Andraychak said. They could also be slapped with vandalism charges, he said.
The activists say it is a crime that there are more vacant housing units in San Francisco than homeless people. They claimed in a press release that there were between 6,000 and 15,000 homeless people in The City last year, and that more than 36,000 units are currently vacant.
The activists colored the run-down building with several protest signs, one reading “Empty homes are for people too” and “Affordable housing RIP.” Officers camped out in front of the building overnight.
Media trucks and camera crew waited across the street for those arrests to come. The intersection was relatively quiet that early in the morning, with only a few pedestrians passing by.
At one point, a transient walking by asked a journalist how long the activists had been inside the building. When he was told since Sunday, the transient laughed.
“Only that long?” he said. “And that’s news? Heck, I do that all the time.”
Such protests are not uncommon in The City. In April, housing activists took over a privately-owned Mission district duplex. That protest ended peacefully.
Bay City News contributed to this report.