San Francisco police dismantle protest camp

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Dec 8, 2011 2:14am IST

A Department of Public Works worker removes debris from the Occupy San Francisco encampment at Justin Herman Plaza after a morning police raid in San Francisco, California December 7, 2011. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

A Department of Public Works worker removes debris from the Occupy San Francisco encampment at Justin Herman Plaza after a morning police raid in San Francisco, California December 7, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Stephen Lam

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Police dismantled a tent city of Occupy protesters in downtown San Francisco early on Wednesday, arresting more than 50 people as they shut down the largest remaining Occupy encampment on the West Coast.

But later in Washington, D.C., hundreds of demonstrators who share the movement's discontent with the U.S. economic system marched on the K Street area famous as a center for lobbyists, disrupting traffic.

San Francisco authorities had repeatedly warned Occupy protesters to move from the public plaza at the foot of Market Street in recent weeks and tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a move to another location.

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said there were about 100 people in the camp when the police moved in shortly before 2 a.m. on Wednesday, and about 100 officers took part in the action.

About 50 people were arrested, he said. Two were arrested for felony assault after hitting a policeman in the face with a chair, but the action was otherwise mostly free of violence.

Efforts to clear an Occupy camp in Oakland last month led to violent confrontations between police and protesters and several serious injuries, and San Francisco authorities were eager to avoid a repeat of that.

In Los Angeles, police used a massive force of 1,200 officers to clear a much larger Occupy camp in late November.

Authorities in many U.S. cities, often citing health and safety conditions, have dismantled protest camps that sprang from the original Occupy movement in New York against economic inequality and perceived excesses of the U.S. financial system.

WASHINGTON EXCEPTION

An exception to that is Washington, D.C., where Occupy encampments have remained in place and on occasion the protesters have been joined by other groups with similar aims.

This week union and church organizations, among others, are participating in a "Take Back the Capitol" effort that saw sit-ins at congressional offices on Tuesday, and on Wednesday was concentrating on anti-lobbyist actions on K Street, where many corporate lobbyists have offices.

Jerome Wilson, 52, an environmental services worker from Pittsburgh, told Reuters he had come to Washington with a church group for the protests.

Asked why, he said: "It's about strengthening the people because that 1 percent is taking away everything from us. We're basically back in debtors' prison again."

The "1 percent" is a common reference among protesters to the idea that a tiny minority in the country has more wealth and power than is fair, at the expense of the majority.

Police blocked off streets near intersections where the protesters congregated.

(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson; Writing by Jonathan Weber and Jerry Norton; Editing by David Bailey and Cynthia Osterman)

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