By Sara Bloomberg
After a three-hour standoff with occupiers, police dressed in riot gear retreated Wednesday night from the Occupy SF encampment at Justin Herman Plaza as the non-violent yet impassioned crowd cheered victoriously.
Around 50 occupiers were surrounded by 70 to 80 police officers, all wielding batons and helmets, while a crowd of 200 watched from the sidelines.
Only one man was seriously injured. Witnesses say the police grabbed and cuffed him, dragged him away and delayed his access to medical attention.
“A nurse wanted to inspect the man and they denied the nurse the right to inspect him” at first, said Stephen Aghaulor, a software developer who watched from the sidelines.
Eventually, the injured man was taken away by ambulance.
Legal observers on the scene confirmed six arrests, including at least one felony assault charge, and several other people were issued “certificates of release” indicating that they were detained and released but not arrested.
Among those issued a “certifcate” was ATA 2121 Union President Alisa Messer, , who said that, like herself, many people tried to stay out of the scuffle but police surrounded and pushed them into the epicenter of the plaza in an attempt to control the crowd.
“We didn’t hear an order to disperse,” said Messer. “They surrounded and pushed us.”
Calls for solidarity and perseverance continuously blared out of the sound system and were echoed throughout the crowd via the Occupy Movement’s signature “mike check” method of disseminating information to a large body of people by repeating announcements in unison.
The Occupy SF General Assembly asked police to let people come and go freely and petitioned bystanders to assemble themselves in solidarity.
One speaker implored, “Don’t let them scare you! Stay in the plaza!”
Shortly before 9 p.m., a group of occupiers rushed to the north end of the plaza to set up metal barricades against a team of 18 police officers that had just arrived on motorcycles.
As the barricades went up, a lone saxophonist played the national anthem, presaging the eventual victory of Occupy SF that evening.
The police officers retreated just before 9 p.m., as the crowd chanted, “Who’s park? Our park!”