SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco police and Public Works crews dismantled a Financial District encampment early today that had been occupied by activists protesting economic inequality.
About 80 officers wearing riot helmets confronted some 200 campers and their supporters at about 12:45 a.m. at the Occupy SF camp in front of the Federal Reserve Bank's building at 101 Market St. near Main Street. The officers guarded city workers who removed tents, sleeping bags and other belongings.
One protester was arrested for allegedly assaulting an officer.
The camp was taken down hours after several hundred people marched through the Financial District in an Occupy SF-organized protest. The group formed in sympathy with the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has been staging protests in New York over the past month over what it calls corporate greed and the excessive concentration of wealth and power among 1 percent of the nation's population.
The Occupy SF camp formed outside the Federal Reserve Bank on Thursday. By Wednesday it had grown to about 50 people.
At around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, police handed a notice to Occupy SF protesters that although the city and Police Department "celebrate and protect" free speech and the right to assemble, their encampment violated several city laws. They included a ban on having an open flame on a street or sidewalk, creating a public nuisance, disorderly conduct in lodging and serving food without a permit.
Protesters began taking down tents and removing belongings, activists said today, but also posted the police notice online. More than 100 supporters subsequently arrived at the encampment, some of whom sat in a meditation circle.
At 12:45 a.m., Department of Public Works employees arrived in trucks and began removing campers' possessions as police stood guard.
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"They took everything," said one protester, who asked to be identified only as Leslie M. "They said if we showed an effort that we were removing our stuff and taking down our tents, it would be OK."
About 50 protesters stood in front of one truck to try to prevent it from leaving, activists said. The trucks took an alternate route and drove away via Main Street.
Leslie said she had seen officers scuffle with some protesters and that two men had been led away in handcuffs. Police spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield, however, said that only one protester had been arrested, for allegedly assaulting an officer. He did not have the man's name.
Dangerfield said police had given the protesters a reasonable amount of time to break camp before moving in.
"No one is telling them to leave," Dangerfield said. "It's not about them protesting. We encourage people to exercise their First Amendment rights."
About 100 protesters are still occupying the area where the camp stood, but without tents and sleeping bags.
"We are still at the camp indefinitely," Occupy SF said in a statement today. "We are calling on all of the 99 percent to mobilize ASAP. This occupation must continue to grow."