A line of tents from the Occupy SF encampment at Justin Herman Plaza has begun creeping up Market Street in response to what protesters say is overcrowding at the main camp, and The City is once again threatening to take action.
“We’re getting too big,” Occupy SF member Debra Lujan, 34, said Sunday, adding that the group had no intention of leaving Market Street. “Never. We occupy, that’s what we do.”
Demonstrators were handed a “notice of noncompliance” by the Department of Public Works on Saturday, in response to an effort in the past few days to create a tent “bridge” on the sidewalk from the plaza to a smaller encampment that has been in front of the Federal Reserve Bank at 101 Market St. since September.
“Occupants and tents have space at Justin Herman Plaza, and any encampment outside that area is in violation of previously agreed upon guidelines,” the notice reads.
This “final notice” ordered all tent occupants on Market Street, including the original encampment outside the Federal Reserve, to immediately vacate, citing city codes and “critical health and safety issues.” A metal barricade also was erected late Friday between Steuart and Spear streets, separating the newer occupants from merchants.
Elizabeth Moore, 18, one of the new sidewalk tenants, said the bridge idea was approved by demonstrators at a recent meeting due to overcrowding, sanitation problems and “high tension, people getting into fights.”
“A lot of that had to do with space,” Moore said.
Members of the Occupy SF encampment acknowledged recent issues involving alleged thefts at area businesses by some at the encampment, along with sporadic reports of violence.
“We have been, by and large, very peaceful,” said Brian McKeown, 38, a member of Occupy’s communications team. “We do have some flare-ups, but that happens in a community like this, in a small space with new people.”
McKeown said organizers have recently beefed up the camp’s own internal peacekeeping and conflict resolution activities, and also are working on bringing in mental health service providers.
“There’s a lot of irresponsible, instigating people here,” said Kevin Lash, 21. “But as the community’s progressing, I think we’re kind of getting through to those people.”
Lash estimated that only about half the camp’s residents are actually there to protest Wall Street and income inequality.
“A lot of the kids who are just here to hang out are now taking on roles,” he said.
While many in Occupy SF worry about a city crackdown now that the mayoral election is over, Moore took the latest threat in stride.
“We’re just winging it, because they send out stuff like that all the time and don’t follow through with it,” she said.
Occupy SF timeline
Sept. 17: In solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, Occupy SF begins in San Francisco.
Sept. 29: First Occupy SF camp starts up outside the Federal Reserve Bank on Market Street.
Oct. 6: San Francisco police break up Federal Reserve camp for not having permits for tents and open flames.
Oct. 15: Occupy SF movement moves most of its camp east to Justin Herman Plaza.
Oct. 16: San Francisco police break up the Justin Herman Plaza camp.
Oct. 19: Occupy SF tents spring up again, in greater numbers, at Justin Herman Plaza.
Oct. 25: Police Chief Greg Suhr issues a notice to campers that they are in violation of city codes and subject to arrest.
Nov. 10 or 11: Market Street sidewalk tent “bridge” begins between the Federal Reserve and Justin Herman Plaza.
Nov. 12: DPW issues order requiring all tents on Market Street to vacate immediately.