SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Police erected barricades on Thursday around a San Francisco park where hundreds of anti-Wall Street protesters braced for eviction two days after failing to agree to a city plan for relocating their camp.
Occupy San Francisco is believed to be the largest of a dwindling number of West Coast protest settlements aligned with the 2-month-old national movement protesting economic inequality, after a larger group in Los Angeles was evicted earlier in the week.
The purpose of the fencing put up around Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco’s Financial District was not immediately clear, but most police officers left after it was installed, and a raid on the encampment there did not seem imminent.
Shortly after police installed the barricades along three sides of the park, protesters bandied together to haul away the fencing from one of those sides as more than a dozen officers stood by watching. Protesters then chanted “Cops go home.”
A block and a half away, demonstrators at a smaller gathering near the Federal Reserve building blocked traffic on the city’s main downtown thoroughfare and moved fencing set up at the site, leading to a scuffle with officers.
Demonstrators have been gathered at Justin Herman Plaza for two months within view of major bank branches and upscale restaurants.
San Francisco officials had offered a plan to move the protesters to the site of a former school, but the demonstrators failed to reach agreement on how to respond to the proposed deal.
On Wednesday, a city negotiator told demonstrators that officials wanted tents gone from the current site by noon on Thursday, but stopped short of issuing a deadline ultimatum.
The latest confrontation between police and demonstrators left some uneasy including Taylor Klahn, 29, from Los Angeles, who walked around the camp wearing a large backpack.
“I want all my stuff on me. I want to be mobile if they do raid,” he said as he nervously eyed officers on the fringe of the park. “If they give us a choice of whether to leave or get arrested, I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do.”
In an overnight operation early on Wednesday, police in Los Angeles raided an Occupy camp in that city, pulling down tents and arresting nearly 300 people. Meanwhile the threat of a raid in Philadelphia prompted protesters to vacate a camp there.
(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Johnston)
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