By Sudhin Thanawala
SAN FRANCISCO — More than 100 police officers gave protesters at the Occupy encampment in San Francisco five minutes to gather belongings before authorities took down about 100 tents and arrested 70 people as the camp was dismantled in an overnight raid.
A few officers remained at daybreak Wednesday as trash crews raked up paper and plastic bottles, removed chairs and other belongings that accumulated at the camp over the past two months and pressure-washed the sidewalks.
Dozens of police cars, fire engines and ambulances surrounded the campsite at Justin Herman Plaza and blocked off the area during the raid, which began shortly after 1 a.m.
Police did not immediately release how many people were in the plaza at the time, but campers put the estimate at 150.
"Most of the protesters went peacefully," but one officer received minor injuries when two people threw a chair that cracked his face shield, said officer Albie Esparza. They were arrested on suspicion of felony assault. Dozens of others were arrested for illegal lodging in the plaza and failure to disperse. In all, 70 people were taken into custody.
Richard Kriedler with Occupy S.F. said some protesters were also injured, but he didn't have the details.
"This is a very emotional town. We have anarchists, we have very emotional people that this is not going to go over well with, and this could have been handled a lot better," he said.
"A much more simple way to do it would have been direct contact with the mayor and city officials here with us, and even though they've been invited many times, they didn't come."
Jack Martin, of San Francisco, said he was trying to leave the plaza when he was zip-tied, taken to a police station, cited and released. Officers trashed his tent and personal belongings, he said.
"I lost everything I owned," Martin, 51, said as tears welled up in his eyes. "Everything I owned is gone."
He yelled at officers: "I was trying to get out of your way!"
Asked what he planned to do next, Martin replied, "Occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy."
The tent city was set up in mid-October to protest bank bailouts and economic injustice.
Gene Doherty, 47, an Occupy protester who was not present during the raid but watched it on a live streaming website, said the Occupy protesters planned a noon rally at the site and still had several "mobile occupations" throughout the city.
"We will come back and reoccupy," Doherty said. "A large segment of our community has no other options. They don't have a home to go back to; this was their home."
Protesters will continue to "send a message that this is our right to protest, our right to assemble, and to talk about the economic injustices in the world," he said.
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