At 6 p.m. several hundred protesters marched from the Federal Reserve building on Market Street to Justin Herman Plaza. They ripped down yellow police tape and went through the police line. Police initially retreated and their loudspeakers warned that this was an illegal assembly, saying the park was closed.
Then, police moved in elbow-to-elbow in full riot gear and encircled 35-40 protesters sitting in the middle of the plaza. A second ring of officers kept other protesters from entering it. Five of those protesters were placed in plastic handcuffs, but after a two-and-a-half hour standoff police abruptly released all of the detainees and withdrew from the plaza. Police were concerned protesters would set their tents up again, but when it appeared that the protesters just wanted to hold a general assembly, police decided to simply let go the detainees and explain to them that the park was closed.
"I also didn't plan on necessarily staying very long so I was ready to leave and I asked the cop very nicely, 'Can I leave? Can I go because I'd like to leave?' And he wouldn't let me," detained protester Daniele Erville said.
"We made some admonishments because of the fight, they say they did not know that the park was closed and so therefore when the people were detained, it was in the best interest to admonish them and educate them as opposed to arrest," San Francisco police spokesperson Officer Alvie Esparza said.
After the police withdrew, the protesters held a small victory celebration and continued their general assembly discussion about shutting down the Port of Oakland on Monday.
By 7 p.m. one tent had been pitched and by 11:30 p.m. it was voluntarily taken down.
"We pushed back, we stood our ground and the cops left. It was kind of like a game scenario," Jason Gillen from Occupy SF said.
Protesters were detained, but not arrested. One man was injured and was taken into a waiting ambulance.
This retaking of the plaza came only 16 hours after police swooped in overnight to remove the long-standing Occupy SF encampment, arresting over 80 demonstrators.
There is still a strong police presence in the area, but they said as long as things remain a First Amendment rally and not a re-encampment, things should remain peaceful.
Earlier Wednesday at about 1:30 a.m., police, sheriff's deputies, firefighters and public works crews converged on the 2-month-old camp. They gave them five minutes to clear out. Most did, but police arrested 70 occupiers and other supporters who didn't.
"The cops came through, they were destroying everything in their path, there were a bunch of people trying to get out," protester Dena Cook said.
One occupier says he hurt his head when police pushed his face to the ground.
"I was told to leave and I just told them I wouldn't comply because I was a peaceful protester," Red said.
Public works crews worked until dawn, cleaning up the park, hauling off debris while officers ringed the plaza.
Chief Greg Suhr said police moved in because the camp had become too dangerous for the occupiers and the downtown neighborhood.
"This part of the 99 percent moved that part of the 99 percent to give the other part of the 99 percent some relief," Suhr said.
Mayor Ed Lee said he had no choice but to order the police action after occupiers representatives stopped their ongoing dialogue with the city.
"We still wanted to talk with them but because these discussions were cut off, we felt this was the right time," Lee said.