SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee met with Occupy SF protesters at City Hall on Wednesday to discuss his continued concerns about the encampment that has been at Justin Herman Plaza for the past several weeks.
Lee, who made his first visit to the encampment on Tuesday morning, has expressed concern about health and safety conditions at the camp, which has increased to about 200 tents in the plaza at the foot of Market Street.
He reiterated those concerns at Wednesday’s meeting, which also included supervisors and heads of several city departments.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Lee said he “expressed very strongly” the city’s conditions for allowing the encampment to remain, including reducing its size and adequately cleaning up the plaza.
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“We’re giving them the immediate opportunity to demonstrate that and we’ll see what happens,” he said.
Lee did not say how long he would give the protesters to adhere to the conditions, but Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, who also attended the meeting, said it is time to act.
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“My opinion is it’s an unsafe and unhealthy situation and it’s escalating,” Hayes-White said.
“The city feels that we’ve done a number of things to try to work and gain cooperation but we haven’t seen the cooperation we’ve asked for,” she said.
Tomas Aragon, director of population health and prevention with the city’s Department of Public Health, said conditions are deteriorating because of “the large number of people in a very small, confined space.”
Aragon said health inspectors are going through the camp twice a day, and although there have been no viral outbreaks, fleas and lice have been reported at the encampment, among other issues.
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Meagan Moroney, an Occupy SF protester who attended the meeting, said “both sides have some good ideas” about how to move forward and said “I do respect that we have to clean up our camp.”
As far as reducing the size of the camp, Moroney said “we’re definitely willing to work with the city to find new space” for protesters, but “we’re not OK with cutting down the number of people.”
She said protesters did not plan on moving their headquarters from the plaza any time soon.
“We’re at Justin Herman Plaza for a reason, and in the Financial District,” Moroney said. “This movement is about economic disparity.”
She also criticized police action early this morning to remove 15 tents that had been set up along the first block of Market Street.
At 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, police in riot gear dismantled an ancillary camp that had been set up on the sidewalk along the first block of Market Street, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.
About 15 tents were taken down, and officers arrested seven people, Esparza said.
Esparza said the tents were dismantled because they posed “a safety concern,” since the walking space on the sidewalk had been reduced from about 30 feet to six feet across because of the encampment.
Department of Public Works spokeswoman Gloria Chan said nearly 200 tents remain in Justin Herman Plaza.
Moroney said the city told campers they’d be notified before any raid but that did not occur this morning.
She said even if police do come remove the encampment, protesters will just return again.
“We’re not going anywhere,” she said.
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