Occupy San Diego protesters vow return to plaza despite ouster
"The police were completely out of line," said protest leader Ray Lutz. "This insidious show of force has only energized our movement. We're going to be even stronger."
Police arrested 51 people at the plaza and at Children's Park in the nearby Gaslamp Quarter, most on suspicion of illegal lodging, encroachment and resisting. Police around 2 a.m. used bullhorns to order protesters to leave.
"The last thing we wanted was to arrest anyone," Asst. Chief Boyd Long told a news conference outside police headquarters. "Unfortunately they put us in the position to make those arrests."
Negotiations between police and protesters about removing tents, tarps, tables, chairs and other property had broken down, said Chief Bill Lansdowne. "It had deteriorated to the point where there was no dialogue," he said.
San Diego police and San Diego County sheriff's deputies, in riot gear, ordered protesters to move from the civic plaza and take their property. Those who refused were arrested; property that remained was confiscated.
Once the area is steam-cleaned, police said, protesters are free to use the plaza but not to bring their tents and other property.
Police said a minimum of force was used in making arrests. No tear gas was used. Plastic handcuffs were used to restrain those being arrested.
Protesters disagreed about the police tactics. "They pulled us out of our tents without warning," Lutz said. Some of the protesters had been at the civic plaza for nearly three weeks.
Unlike some other cities, San Diego political officials have shown no official support for the Occupy movement. "They're completely out of step here," said Lutz.
--Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: Occupy San Diego property seized by police in early-morning sweep. Credit: John Gibbins / San Diego Union-Tribune