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Occupy San Francisco protesters arrested after taking over building [Updated]

April 2, 2012 |  6:35 pm

Dozens of Occupy San Francisco activists were arrested Monday afternoon after they took over a building owned by the Archdiocese of San Francisco and spent Sunday night there, contending it was vacant.

Organizers had announced plans a day earlier to “liberate” the Turk Street building and convert it “into a social center, shelter and food bank for the people.”

“This action on Sunday is not a temporary protest but a permanent occupation intended to establish a social center,” organizers wrote in a statement. “We will transform this vacant building into a productive and vibrant space, just as we did in the plaza occupation, and we wish others to take similar actions and more.”

At least 40 OccupySF demonstrators entered the building Sunday, but police moved in to roust them Monday, after archdiocese officials complained.

Archdiocese spokesman George Wesolek said the building and another one nearby had been used for music and art classes for the adjacent Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory High School as recently as 18 months ago and are going to be leased to raise money for scholarships for low-income students.

“The implication is that they’re abandoned, and in no way were they abandoned,” Wesolek said Monday evening. “They were in play and it was a question of school authorities as to how to use them best.”

Wesolek called the OccupySF target curious.

“Our mission is to work with the bottom quarter of the 99%. That’s what we do,” he said. “We run about a third of all the social services in the city, and our educational ministry is really important to us. It gives a lot of these kids a chance to get out of poverty situations and to go to college.”

Wesolek said high school officials notified the archdiocese Sunday evening that demonstrators had entered the building, and officials then signed a citizens arrest on charges of trespassing and graffiti.

San Francisco police could not immediately be reached for comment, but the San Francisco Chronicle reported that officers stormed the building about 1:45 p.m. Monday after tearing down a barricade that protesters had used to block the front door. The newspaper reported that more than two dozen arrests had been made by late afternoon.

[Updated, 7:05 p.m.: Authorities say 75 Occupy protesters were arrested. San Francisco Police Sgt. Michael Andraychak, a department spokesman, said officers worked their way through a barricade of dismembered metal cubicles to enter the building. They moved in after additional Occupiers began arriving with food and other provisions, he said.

“From everything we saw, we realized they intended to stay,” Andraychak said. “We’d seen stockpiles of bricks on the roof, buckets of paint and chairs and other items, and we were concerned they were going to be used to throw down on police officers.”

Andraychak said no one was injured during the arrests, adding that officers had to “break down doors and basically cause them to disintegrate” because they were screwed shut with metal brackets. The building was heavily graffitied and is now being boarded up by Archdiocese employees, who plan to bring in private security, he said.]

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-- Lee Romney in Oakland

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