Mayor Ed Lee 'Close' to Evicting Occupy SF

Encampment at Justin Herman Plaza will be raided if protesters don't move the camp.

Thursday, Dec 1, 2011  |  Updated 5:24 PM PDT
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Occupy SF's "Tent City"

Mat Luschek

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San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said he is "getting close" to deciding to clear out the Occupy SF encampment at Justin Herman Plaza if protesters do not agree to move to another site being offered in the city's Mission District.

The protesters have been camping at the plaza at the foot of Market Street for nearly two months in solidarity with the "Occupy Wall Street" movement that started in New York and spread across the nation.

But after the city's Department of Public Health declared the site a health nuisance earlier this month, city officials have been pressuring campers to move, even offering an alternate location near 16th and Mission streets.

Occupy SF members considered the proposal at their daily general assembly Wednesday night but could not come to a consensus on whether to stay or go to the Mission location.

Lee, speaking to reporters at a separate event in the city today, said he was nearing a decision on whether to send in authorities to clean out the camp but declined to give a timeline for how long he'll give the protesters to decide if they want to accept the city's offer.

"I do think we're getting closer to a time where we have to take some action," he said, but added "we have indicated our effort and our willingness to be very patient, and the fact that they're talking about this is a pretty good indication."

Lee said the offer is an all-or-nothing deal, so protesters will not be able to split up at the two sites.

"Our goal was not to create two locations," he said. "That would have defeated the purpose."

Protesters at the encampment were on edge earlier today after Department of Public Works director Mohammed Nuru told them Wednesday that they would have to vacate the plaza by noon today.

The noon deadline came and went without any action from protesters or the city.

Lee said, "I understand what Mohammed was doing, he was trying to provide a time frame because there is an urgency."

He said, "We need folks at Occupy to understand that we have other people's needs to accommodate at Justin Herman."

Some campers at the plaza expressed a willingness to move to the new site, including Christopher Loscomb, who said it would be a chance to "attempt something new."

Another protester named Sean, who declined to give his last name, said issues with drugs and violence would only increase at the new location in the Mission, a hotspot for gang activity in the city.

Police Chief Greg Suhr said those concerns are unwarranted.

"It's a defined space, it has gates," Suhr said. "There's no merit to that."

Suhr said he was hoping Lee and other city officials will decide to take action soon because "the situation is deteriorating."

He said, "Hopefully folks have just decided that this thing has run its course and they'll up and leave, and if they won't, we'll make sure it's safe for everyone else to clean it up."

Suhr said he has heard concerns from officers who have been told by campers at the site that some tents might be booby-trapped to harm officials who try to take them away.

"We'll try to prepare for every eventuality," he said.

Bay City news contributed to this report.

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