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Protesters Attempt To Retake Plaza After Occupy SF Raid

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - After circling Justin Herman Plaza and attempting to retake the site of the encampment that was raided in the early morning, "Occupy SF" protesters marched back to the Federal Reserve building and blocked Market Street Wednesday afternoon.

Police blocked protesters from re-entering the site of the former encampment at the plaza Wednesday afternoon, scrambling to keep up with them as they tried to enter the site from various angles.

About 40 protesters marched back to the Federal Reserve building at 101 Market Street around 2 p.m. The number of protesters appeared to have dwindled since about 70 demonstrators gathered outside the building for a noon rally.

PHOTOS: Occupy SF Attempts To Retake Plaza

Traffic on Market Street has been blocked by the ongoing demonstration. Police were standing by near the intersection of Market and Drumm streets.

Police raided the Occupy SF encampment shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday, confiscating tents and other items and arresting about 70 people.

KCBS' Bob Melrose and Holly Quan Report:

San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr held a media briefing around 4:30 a.m. after police in riot gear dismantled the camp that has been erected on the plaza since October.

Two of those arrested were facing aggravated assault charges for allegedly throwing a chair at an officer, resulting in a minor injury to the officer.

Later Wednesday morning Suhr told another group of reporters there were three groups of protesters arrested, with most arrests for blocking Market Street at various times after police arrived.

"This area was declared a public health hazard," he told reporters. "It needs to be rehabilitated" now that the tents have been cleared.

Occupy SF raid
Police in riot gear dismantle the Occupy SF encampment at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco, December 7, 2011. (CBS)

Protesters were told to clear the plaza around 2 a.m. Department of Public Works crews have been clearing and cleaning the site since the police raid.

"The mayor has been really thoughtfully and patiently negotiating with the Occupy leadership," said Suhr. "As of about yesterday, Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, who has been the point person for the day to day contact was getting no returned emails. Department heads went over and looked at the site in the Mission, but it appeared that all communications had broken off. After the aggressive attack on the officers and other city workers last Thursday, it appeared that the group had deteriorated. It had not only become a health hazard inside, but it was becoming a public safety hazard to the outside."

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier Comments:

Mayor Ed Lee released a statement Wednesday morning saying, "I have made it clear to protesters that overnight camping at Justin Herman Plaza and on Market Street is not a sustainable or safe environment for protesters, the general public or city staff."

Lee said the city "took a measured and balanced approach and negotiated with Occupy leadership in good faith ... but unfortunately, communication with the liaison team designated by Occupy SF deteriorated to a point where it was clear no progress could be made."

Lee said, "In order to maintain public health, public safety and return the plaza for everyone's use, city agencies peacefully and orderly ended the encampment at Justin Herman Plaza."

About 100 tents were taken down. Police officer Albie Esparza says the removal was mostly peaceful but one officer suffered a minor injury when two protesters threw a chair that cracked his face shield. They were arrested on suspicion of felony assault. Dozens of others were arrested for illegal lodging in the plaza and failure to disperse.

Chris Nable, who was sited Wednesday morning for refusing to leave the encampment, said that all he wanted to do was get his new guitar and leave the area.

"They said everything was thrown in the back of the trash truck and crushed," said Nable. "So my guitar, and that nice bike, the one blanket I was able to grab and the clothes I had in my backpack are all gone."

KCBS' Margie Shafer Reports:

The plaza was occupied in mid-October by campers protesting against bank bailouts and economic injustice.

The overnight police raid drew a mixed reaction from protesters and passersby Wednesday morning.

David Ritchie, who had been at the camp for a little over two weeks, said he was one of those arrested. Ritchie said he was taken to the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. before being released.

"It's so disheartening," he said. "People were being treated like animals."

Ritchie said some protesters were beaten with police batons, and others had their belongings taken away in a garbage truck.

But Stanley Martin, another protester who said he had been at the encampment for about six weeks, said the Occupy SF movement has itself to blame.

"The city gave us every opportunity to keep the park clean" and offered an alternate site for the protesters near 16th and Mission streets, Martin said.

However, protesters could not come to a consensus on whether to relocate.

"If we had taken that, we would've beaten City Hall," Martin said.

Others walking by the plaza Wednesday morning had varying opinions on the raid.

"I'm shocked that it's empty," said John Bautista, who was on his way to work. "I know they're trying to stand up for the 99 percent, and I'm glad they were trying to finally bring the issue into light, so I'm sad to see that they're gone," he said.

Jim Bradley, a retiree who was on his way to meet a friend, said he agreed with the spirit of the protests but said, "I think it's gone on long enough."

Bradley said, "I don't think they were going about it the right way."

Mayor Lee's said in his statement, "We expect people to continue their Occupy protest movement and the city will continue to respect and facilitate everyone's fundamental right to peacefully assemble and protest."

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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