Battle of the barricades: Occupy SF, police clash

Historians might someday call it the Battle of the Barricades.

Complete chaos nearly broke out Thursday between Occupy SF campers and police, but after a long day, cops and demonstrators both walked away with few injuries or arrests.

Officers in riot gear came close to a street fight with demonstrators on Market Street in front of the Federal Reserve Bank about 7 p.m. when angry occupiers aggressively dragged metal barricades from the sidewalk into the roadway. Police Sgt. Michael Andraychak said at least two protesters were arrested.

But after the situation calmed, protesters simply held their nightly general assembly meeting in the middle of the street as police stood guard. An hour later, protesters marched along Market back to their Justin Herman Plaza camp.

Earlier in the day, tents remained at the plaza despite a noon deadline imposed by Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru to dismantle the tent city. But tensions began to boil in the evening when police attempted to corral the camp with barricades.

“We’re not cattle, we’re humans!” protesters cried as the barricades were forcefully pushed back and forth between a throng of campers and cops.

One young woman suffered a leg injury in the brief scuffle and was treated by medics, police said, and one arrest was made. An officer also suffered a hand injury and was taken to a hospital, police said.

Shortly after cordoning off the camp, police removed some barricades about 5:30 p.m. About an hour later, protesters forcibly removed the rest, then built structures out of them in the middle of the camp.

Capt. Richard Corriea told reporters that police set up the barricades because they “just wanted them up,” and they would be needed for when campers eventually “move on.” He indicated that the camp was becoming a nuisance and a public health hazard. However, after tensions calmed about 8 p.m. Thursday night, police trucked off the majority of barricades at the plaza.

“This place is a public health hazard [and] has been for weeks now,” Corriea said.

During a walking tour of the mid-Market Street neighborhood Thursday, Mayor Ed Lee said The City wants a peaceful resolution and is still open to negotiating with protesters on a new site that officials have prepared for them at a fenced-in abandoned school in the Mission district. The mayor said Occupy SF’s time at Justin Herman Plaza could indeed be limited.

Occupiers have characterized the Mission site offer as an attempt to make their demonstration less visible by moving it farther away from the Financial District, which is the target of their complaints about nationwide income disparity.

Examiner Staff Writer Andrea Koskey contributed to this report.

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