50 arrested at Occupy San Diego camp
About 50 people were arrested Friday morning as San Diego police in riot gear moved to clear the civic plaza behind City Hall of both the Occupy San Diego protesters and their tents and other property.
As the sweep began about 2 a.m., an officer using a bullhorn warned protesters "to disperse immediately or you will be arrested." The protesters presence in the plaza been declared "an illegal gathering," he said.
Police had repeatedly warned the protesters that while they could stay, their tents, tarps, chairs, tables and other property had to be removed. But when the sweep began, protesters were told to move and their belongings were confiscated.
Police removed numerous tents Oct. 14 and arrested two young men for allegedly resisting their efforts. But in the last few days, more tents were erected and protesters refused to remove them.
Frank Gormlie, a journalist with the OB Rag website, said more than 100 police officers and San Diego County Sheriff's Department deputies arrived at the civic plaza shortly before 2 a.m.
Police confiscated supplies and food, Gormlie said. He put the number of arrests at 44; Assistant Chief Boyd Long said the number was about 50.
Police Chief Bill Lansdowne, in civilian attire, made an unannounced visit to the plaza in the predawn hours of Thursday, indicating official patience was wearing thin with the protesters, who have been at the civic plaza since Oct. 8.
Early Friday, police erected water-filled barriers around the civic plaza and stood guard to keep protesters from returning.
Occupy San Diego organizers called for a march in downtown San Diego on Friday morning to protest the police actions.
A message on the Occupy San Diego Facebook page said: “The Occupy movement is only growing stronger. Occupy SD will not be moved, we will not be dispersed, our voices will not be stifled by Chief Lansdowne and Mayor Sanders.”
-- Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: The Occupy San Diego encampent, seen on Oct. 11. Credit: Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press