Occupy SF demonstrators heckled Mayor Ed Lee on Tuesday as he defended his decisions to have police break up two of the group’s encampments this month. The rancor between the mayor and the protesters was on public display for the first time during Lee’s monthly question-time session with the Board of Supervisors.
Responding to a question about how to manage the long-term nature of the local Occupy movement, Lee said he supports the spirit of the demonstration.
“Then don’t send the police in to destroy it,” a woman yelled from the crowd to applause.
Lee said the two raids on Occupy SF camps were undertaken as a matter of public safety, maintaining the public right-of-way and upholding long-standing city laws that prohibit nonpermitted cooking on the sidewalk and camping in parks.
After the meeting, Lee was questioned about whether there is any workable space in The City for protesters to occupy indefinitely.
“We’re going to draw the line with overnight camping,” Lee said, adding that Occupy SF has cost The City $100,000 so far in police enforcement and Department of Public Works activity in gathering camp equipment.
Both police actions took place late at night, with the most recent raid resulting in five arrests.
Supervisor John Avalos said the clearing of the camps — one on the sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve Bank on Market Street Oct. 6 and the second at Justin Herman Plaza on Sunday — have done nothing but inflame anger.
After Lee’s comments, Avalos said he’s considering legislation to make a stable camp possible, and that First Amendment rights should trump park codes.
About 250 protesters marched to City Hall before Tuesday’s meeting, chanted “No shock and awe on Occupy SF” and handed out photos of Sunday’s police action.
Until Tuesday, Lee has been less visibly engaged with the Occupy movement than mayors in other cities such as Seattle and New York, where municipal chiefs have personally told protesters to remove their camps. While Occupy SF’s decisions are made by consensus and no one member speaks for the group, the general complaint of the Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoots revolves around income disparity in the U.S. and the influence of big business on politics.
Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said Lee has been thoroughly engaged with Occupy SF. The problem, she said, is that the goals of the movement seem to be in flux, and different members want different things from The City.
“It’s a leaderless group by definition and we’re doing our best to understand what the needs are on any given day,” Falvey said.