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Dozens Arrested As Police Clear Occupy S.F. Camp

Dozens of police officers cleared Occupy protesters from a camp in San Francisco early Wednesday, giving them a five-minute warning before dismantling the tent city and arresting at least 70 people.

Police cars, fire engines and ambulances surrounded the campsite and blocked off the area around Justin Herman Plaza during the raid, which began shortly after 1 a.m.

A few officers lingered at daybreak Wednesday as trash crews raked up paper and plastic bottles, removed chairs and other belongings that had accumulated at the camp over the past two months.

"There are a few dozen occupiers standing around the edge of the plaza," Stephanie Martin of member station KQED reported Wednesday morning. "You also have a few dozen police in riot gear standing around the periphery of the plaza as public works crews with power washers clean it up and hose it down."

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr told reporters that of the roughly 70 people detained, two were arrested for assaulting law enforcement but that most of the others were cited for illegal lodging and released.

"Most of the protesters went peacefully" but one officer received minor injuries when two people threw a chair that cracked his face shield, police Officer Albie Esparza said.

Campers estimated that the number of arrests was closer to 150.

The Occupy protesters had been offered an alternative site away from downtown San Francisco but declined to move. Demonstrators said they planned to reconvene later Wednesday to discuss their next move and possibly try to re-occupy the plaza.

"Everybody says they're not going anywhere," Martin said.

Richard Kriedler with Occupy S.F. said some protesters were injured, but that he didn't have the details.

"This is a very emotional town. We have anarchists, we have very emotional people that this is not going to go over well with, and this could have been handled a lot better," Kriedler told The Associated Press.

Jack Martin of San Francisco told the AP that he was trying to leave the plaza when he was zip-tied, taken to a police station, cited and released. He said officers trashed his tent and personal belongings.

"I lost everything I owned," Martin, 51, said as tears welled in his eyes. "Everything I owned is gone. My medicine, my paper for my Social Security."

He yelled at officers: "I was trying to get out of your way!"

Asked what he planned to do next, Martin replied, "Occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy."

Gene Doherty, 47, an Occupy protester who was not present during the raid but watched it on a live streaming website, said demonstrators planned a noon rally at the site and still had several "mobile occupations" throughout the city.

"We will come back and reoccupy," Doherty told the AP. "A large segment of our community has no other options. They don't have a home to go back to — this was their home."

Protesters will continue to "send a message that this is our right to protest, our right to assemble, and to talk about the economic injustices in the world," he said.

Stephanie Martin and Rachel Myrow of member station KQED contributed to this report, which contains material from The Associated Press.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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