Holiday ice rink, Occupy SF planning to co-exist

November 9, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Occupy San Francisco is still firmly in place at Justin Herman Plaza even though the annual holiday ice rink there opened Wednesday morning.

Will the protesters' encampment have a chilling effect on business? Police who work in the area everyday say they have their concerns. They say the Occupy San Francisco group does attract an element that isn't very family-friendly.

Occupy San Francisco has been a mostly peaceful group and its leaders have been working with the city and local vendors. Still, police say they were called to remove some protesters the new ice rink and one man with a gun was intercepted on his way to the rink.

Officials at the rink had no comment on those incidents, preferring to focus on the positive. They opened at 10 a.m. Wednesday and say the rink is a great environment for family fun during the holidays. The vendors at Justin Herman Plaza serve as somewhat of a buffer between the protesters and the ice rink. They say their numbers are down, but they do not think the rink will have too many problems with the protesters. The protesters agree.

"Any time you have an element that's as unregulated as this, and as diverse as this, there's going to be problems. And, it has impacted us," vendor Stephen Phillips told ABC7.

"It's more about just the image that this place and stuff. I think it would make some people a little uncomfortable. I mean, I would be," said protester Pat Norris. "But, I don't think there's any real danger or anything."

"People need to see this," said another protester. "This is reality. That's not."

The city has largely left the protesters alone, but some of them point out that Mayor Ed Lee was in the middle of an election season and say they would not be surprised if the city turned its attention to the protest once the election is over. Additionally, the growing amount of holiday traffic in the area could have officials watching closely and wondering how everyone will co-exist at the plaza.


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