SF supervisors support OccupySF's 24/7 encampment

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Will Mayor Ed Lee now soften his stance against allowing OccupySF to maintain a 24/7 encampment?
Steven T. Jones

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today approved a resolution supporting Occupy Wall Street and the right of OccupySF to maintain a 24/7 encampment in Justin Herman Plaza, although sponsors of the measure narrowly lost a fight over amending the measure to allow police to use force if “there is an objective threat to safety or health.”

The sponsors of the measure – Sups. John Avalos, David Campos, Eric Mar, and Jane Kim – noted that heath and safety concerns were used as a pretext for both police raids on OccupySF and for last week's violent police crackdown on the Occupy Oakland encampment, something San Francisco officials uniformly say they want to avoid here. Those four sponsors were joined by Sup. Ross Mirkarimi in opposing the amendment by Sup. Scott Wiener, which passed on a 6-5 vote.

But the overall measure – which urges Mayor Ed Lee to drop his opposition to tents and other camping infrastructure and not order another police raid on the camp – was then approved on an 8-3 vote, with Sups. Mark Farrell, Carmen Chu, and Sean Elsbernd in dissent. Farrell and Chu both expressed support for the movement's call for addressing severe economic inequities in the country, but they oppose the tactic of occupation.

Board President David Chiu, the swing vote on allowing the resolution to be watered down, said his vote was an effort to get as much support for the measure as possible. “For me, it was important to build consensus here at the board,” he said, praising the work that city officials and OccupySF participants have done to resolve their differences. “I have been very impressed with the behavior of individuals involved in this movement.”

Wiener had made a number of amendments to the resolution that Avalos accepted without objection, drawing the line only at the change that would specifically allow for police to use force to dislodge the protesters. While the nonbinding resolution doesn't compel any action by Lee or the SFPD, Avalos praised the mayor for meeting privately with OccupySF members after he seemed to take a firm public stand again allowing camping.

“I do want to thank the mayor for coming to the table on how our public spaces can be used,” Avalos said. Kim echoed the point, noting that, “A ton of progress has been made.” The Mayor's Office has not yet responded to Guardian requests for comment on the resolution or his current position on OccupySF, but we'll update this post when we hear back.

Wiener and others also thanked Avalos for taking the lead role in addressing this issue. “I want to thank Sup. Avalos for being so open and collaborative,” Wiener said, noting that he's been very impressed with how OccupySF has handled itself throughout the standoff. “I'm very supportive of OccupySF...It's been incredibly peaceful and people have been friendly and passionate.”