Cities around the Bay Area faced with demonstrators planted in front of government buildings are ratcheting up efforts to push out the protesters aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Officials put residents of Occupy Oakland, Occupy San Jose and Occupy San Francisco on notice Thursday that their tent cities could no longer continue. But on Friday, protesters in all three cities appeared determined to hold their ground.
In San Jose, about two dozen demonstrators gathered Friday afternoon outside City Hall to say they would continue their weeks-long camp despite early morning arrests. Police before dawn had arrested eight protesters and cited a ninth who was in a wheelchair for violating city laws against overnight camping on public property. The demonstrators have been camping outside City Hall since Oct. 2, but although several had been cited, none had been arrested until Friday.
San Jose police said vandalism and sanitary issues also were a factor. Demonstrators said they felt they were unfairly blamed for defecation on the City Hall grounds by a homeless man who is not part of their protest. By Friday afternoon, two of the arrested demonstrators had posted the $500 to bail out of jail and were back at the plaza, where they were joined by others sporting masks and U.S. flags with corporate logos in place of stars.
Jerome Mills, 28, an unemployed marketer, shrugged off his arrest as "just part of civil disobedience."
"The politicians don't represent us," Mills said. "They just represent the government and corporations."
Oakland city administrators upped the stakes Friday afternoon in their ongoing confrontation with the residents of Occupy Oakland's tent city, issuing a letter stating that the encampment was "a violation of the law" and threatening violators with immediate arrest. The "notice of violations and demand to cease violations" comes a day after a preliminary letter urging the residents to vacate the camp.
Citing numerous penal and civil code violations relating to safety, sanitation and public health issues, the city ordered the residents to discontinue their nightly vigils and remove all their tents and personal belongings from Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. A previous notice issued by the city Thursday night cited the same concerns.
Karen Boyd, a spokeswoman for Mayor Jean Quan, said Friday the protesters had shown themselves incapable of self-governance. "As a collective, they cannot maintain the plaza in a safe condition," she said.
The notice from the mayor's office provoked a kind of quiet determination among many of the protesters. Adrian Dyer, 42, a solar energy consultant who has been at the protest every day, said that if the police remove them, one possible solution might be to set up several smaller alternative camps elsewhere in the city. Dyer also said the movement had lost some negotiating power by not sitting down with city officials earlier.
Another protester, Sean Kae, a local artist and musician, scoffed at the city's claim that the protesters had unlawfully obstructed "the free passage or use of a public park or square."
"This park has had more free passage in the last 10 days than at any time before," he said. He cited the movement's interest in feeding, clothing and sheltering the homeless, something he said the city had repeatedly failed to do.
At least a few residents seemed to be taking the hint. Dorothy King, a 60-year old Oakland resident and business owner, removed her tent Friday after spending several nights as part of the occupation. She said her business needed her, but she also expressed a concern for her safety. "I brought up a proposal that we needed to set up negotiations with the city to address their concerns, but my idea was dismissed," she said.
Meantime, the crowd at Occupy Oakland was treated to a special event at 3 p.m. Friday when Mateus Chavez and Latrina Rhinehart were married on the steps of City Hall before an impromptu crowd of hundreds. Chavez is the great-nephew of the revolutionary activist and head of the United Farm Workers movement, Cesar Chavez.
The groom fondly remembered participating in his great-uncle's demonstrations as a boy, and he expressed support for the crowd of protesters. "We didn't plan on this, but I have friends who are living out there," he said, "It fits; this is a shared sacrifice with everyone."
Rhinehart met Chavez as a senior in high school, and the two have been together for 11 years. "I feel really excited," said Rhinehart. "I didn't imagine it for us, but it makes our wedding that much more meaningful." Rhinehart said she had hoped to be with the protesters, but the demands of her teaching job, her master's degree thesis and her wedding prevented it.
Their counterparts in San Francisco have withstood numerous attempts by authorities to break up the camp on Market Street.
Occupy San Francisco organizers met with public officials Thursday after San Francisco police visited the camp and said that the medical tent erected by the California Nurses Association that day and other tents and tarps would have to be taken down.
But the officials backed off after an agreement was reached about maintaining health and cleanliness at the camp, said Liz Jacobs, spokeswoman for the nurses' union. She said that hand-washing stations and portable toilets were being brought in to help maintain those standards.
Staff writers John Woolfolk and Cecily Burt contributed to this report.