San Diego police hope to avoid confrontations with occupiers
Several dozen Occupy San Diego protesters remained Wednesday in the civic plaza area behind City Hall, but police said they have no plans for a sweep and hope to avoid any confrontations.
“I hope we don’t have anything like what has happened in Oakland and Chicago, or may be brewing in Los Angeles,” said Assistant Police Chief Boyd Long. “This is San Diego -- our goal is to give the protesters a location where they can protest peacefully without infringing on the rights of other people.”
Occupy Oakland demonstrators clashed with police Tuesday night, resulting in dozens of arrests as police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Police said officers were pelted with bottles, rocks and paint.
San Diego has brought in professional mediators to act as liaisons between the police and the protesters. Some have swapped cellphone numbers with protest leaders so they can stay in touch, Long said.
In three weeks since the Occupy San Diego movement began, two protesters were arrested for allegedly resisting police as they sought to remove tents, tarps, tables, and other structures from the plaza.
Police Chief Bill Lansdowne has said that while protesters are welcome to remain, their tents and other property has to be removed because it is blocking the right-of-way for pedestrians. In minor scuffling, police used pepper spray to subdue several of the protesters.
So far, protesters have failed to win any support from the City Council. Several dozen attended a council meeting Tuesday but Council President Tony Young adjourned the meeting when protesters continued chanting, “We are the 99%.”
In the civic plaza, relations between police and protesters have been peaceful since the Oct. 14 arrests. On Wednesday, the Occupy San Diego movement issued a statement pledging not to provoke police into violence. Some protesters handed flowers to police walking through the plaza.
“They’re working people, just like us; we’ve got no argument with the police,” said Darrell O’Neill, an unemployed construction worker who has been part of the protest “on and off” since it began with a 1,000-person march on Oct. 7.
At its height, several hundred people were camping in the civic plaza, with tents, a food distribution system, and a multitude of signs and banners. Their number has dwindled, although organizers predict the numbers will increase in the coming weekend, possibly in response to the police tactics in Oakland.
“We’re all in solidarity,” Joyce Williams explained.
-- Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: Occupy San Diego poster. Credit: Fox-5 San Diego