San Francisco officials turn up heat on Occupy SF camps

The City is ramping up efforts to contain the Occupy SF encampments in downtown.

First there was a raid early Wednesday morning at a small camp at 1 Market St. Later, Mayor Ed Lee handed down an ultimatum for the Justin Herman Plaza tent city. And finally, the Department of Public Works said late Wednesday enough is enough outside the Federal Reserve Bank.

The Occupy SF camp at the Federal Reserve on Market Street was ordered to remove its tents by this evening, according to Public Works. Mohammed Nuru, head of the department, said Wednesday he had met with campers there and asked them to move their tents to the main encampment at Justin Herman Plaza by 4 p.m. today.

“I’ve given this warning before,” Nuru said. “We don’t want to remove their First Amendment rights to be there — they’re free to do that — but they cannot have tents there.”

The mandate followed a meeting between Occupy representatives and Lee, who said the plaza campers must comply with health and safety guidelines or face action by The City, though details of that action were unclear.

“We’ve indicated very strongly that we have a health nuisance that we have to not only notify them about but move on it,” Lee said after the meeting. “I want an immediate compliance, and I need to see a demonstration of that by today.”

Those guidelines include keeping walkways clear, limiting capacity to 100 tents and 200 people, and prohibiting fires, alcohol and drugs.

There are currently about 198 tents at Justin Herman Plaza and an additional 26 outside the Federal Reserve, Public Works said. Campers at the Federal Reserve are not in compliance with the guidelines for clear walkways.

Lee and other city officials emphasized working with the group to allow freedom of speech in a safe environment, but protesters aren’t buying it.

In a statement, the group blasted Lee for chastising the camp they say is providing needed social services, such as medical care and food.

“Why are you spending all these resources trying to fight us instead of working with us a little bit more?” said Kame Geraghty, an Occupy representative at the meeting. “When we come to these meetings they’re just saying they are going to raid us if we don’t do this.”

The camp provides medical services to between 30 and 50 people a day, according to the statement, and serves between 1,200 and 1,500 meals daily to campers and transients.

The meeting came on the heels of an early-morning raid on a splinter group of protesters who had set up tents outside 1 Market St., between the other two camps. Police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said the tents police removed were blocking too much of the sidewalk.

sgantz@sfexaminer.com
jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

Examiner Staff Writer Andrea Koskey contributed to this report.

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