May 3, 2012 / 12:45 AM / 5 years ago

San Francisco police seize building from protesters, 26 arrested

Police officers march towards the Golden Gate Bridge in anticipation of a May Day protest in San Francisco, California May 1, 2012.Stephen Lam

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Police in riot gear raided a vacant San Francisco building before dawn on Wednesday, arresting 26 people and taking the structure back from demonstrators who seized it the night before for use as a commune after a May Day march.

The building, owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, was the site of a previous failed attempt by protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement to take over the vacant structure a month before.

Demonstrators had called the building they seized a commune and said On the Occupy SF website that they planned to offer workshops, guest speakers and food.

Officers entered the building in a pre-dawn raid on Wednesday to clear the structure, San Francisco police spokesman Sergeant Daryl Fong said.

The San Francisco Bay area was the scene of May Day demonstrations attended by hundreds of people on Tuesday, as similar protests roiled cities across the United States in what organizers said was a show of support for organized labor and opposition to income inequality.

Some marches devolved into vandalism and mayhem, including in Seattle where black-clad anarchists smashed windows.

Protesters who took over the vacant San Francisco building on Tuesday had hurled bricks and pipes at officers and people in the street, and a brick struck a bystander in the face, police said.

The man who threw that brick was arrested on suspicion of assault and vandalism, police said, adding they were seeking to find the bystander who television news reports showed was led away bleeding.

The demonstrators had moved into the building on Tuesday night after marching through city streets, he said.

The archdiocese once used the building as a mental health facility, television station CBS San Francisco reported. At one point before the raid, there may have been as many as 200 demonstrators in the building, the station said.

The police raid occurred with no violence or injuries, Fong said. In January, an attempt by Occupy demonstrators to hold a vacant hotel turned violent, as they threw Bibles and furniture at officers below, police said.

Reporting by Emmett Berg; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Xavier Briand

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