20 arrested after attempted building takeover

October 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A vacant building in San Francisco's Castro District drew an intense police response after protestors took it over. Dozens of officers stormed the building to end the occupation by a group protesting the city's housing shortage.

At Castro and 18th it all went down a few officers are standing by while workers make repairs inside. The building used to be a restaurant, but it's been vacant for several years, which is one of the reasons protesters made it their target.

San Francisco police gave protesters less than an hour in the vacant building before they moved in themselves.

Officers surrounded the building on Castro Street near 18th, while the protesters were taken into custody upstairs. Demonstrators went the through the doors around 6 p.m. and began hanging signs.

"This building was vacant. It is now occupied," shouted one of the protesters.

The demonstrators are with a group called "Homes Not Jails" and they were protesting a shortage of housing in San Francisco. It started with a march from Delores Park, as part of the World Homeless Action Day. Their target was a vacant building with an empty storefront and second floor apartments owned by a Castro businessman.

"We have tons of vacant buildings like this one. We could be housing people. People need housing. We don't need empty buildings just sitting here," said protester Tommi Avicolli Mecca.

Not every neighbor welcomed the protest.

"I understand their message, but it's not their property and for them to break into it and occupy it, it is illegal and unconstitutional," said Castro resident Christopher Bruckner.

Police arrested about 20 of the protesters. Possible charges include burglary, trespassing and vandalism. Police say the protesters broke doors and sheetrock causing several thousand dollars in damage.


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