San Francisco offers anti-Wall Street protesters new camp site

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 30, 2011 12:43 AM
San Francisco offers anti-Wall Street protesters new camp site

By Laird Harrison

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, seeking to lure anti-Wall Street activists from a downtown encampment, offered them an alternate site on Tuesday at a former school 2.5 miles from the current Financial District camp.

Occupy San Francisco members met on Tuesday night to discuss the proposed site in the city's Mission District, and the mayor's list of conditions for using it. The offer includes land for pitching tents and a building with restrooms.

The offer comes as other major U.S. cities, weary after weeks of protests, have moved in to dismantle similar encampments that have sprouted over the past two months as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement against economic inequality and excesses of the U.S. financial system.

Some of those efforts have sparked confrontations between protesters and police, including in neighboring Oakland where clashes last month evolved into one of the most violent episodes since the anti-Wall Street movement began.

But prospects of an agreement in San Francisco remained uncertain. The group's decision-making tradition requires a total consensus, and one member, Chance Martin, said he planned to block any decision to leave Justin Herman Plaza, a camp within view of major bank branches and upscale restaurants, where the first tents went up two months ago.

"There is a strong feeling among a lot of us that this is a First Amendment issue," Martin said.

Still, he expected some members of the group acting independently to sign an agreement offered by the city and relocate to the new site.

Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said she did not have exact specifications, but that the site offered advantages over the current camp.

"It's larger than the site they are in now," she said. "There is running water and restroom facilities, which is key to our health and safety concerns."

On Tuesday, portable toilets provided by labor unions at the Justin Herman site were overflowing.

The proposed license agreement for the site at 1950 Mission Street prohibits cooking, children and pets, and would allow city officials to inspect inside tents, all of which could be deal-breakers, said Martin, an advocate for homeless people.

Falvey said the mayor had not set a deadline for the occupiers to leave their current camp, but that they could not stay indefinitely. In addition to sanitation problems, the current camp is preventing other people from using the park, which includes bocce ball courts.

Martin said the campers had worked to comply with city health and safety requirements, saying campers had cleared tents from the bocce ball courts and that bocce players are using them.

(Edited by Cynthia Johnston)