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Police raids on the Occupy San Diego protest early Friday morning drew a groundswell of support for the group, which hosted what was likely the largest crowd since the movement’s early days at Civic Center Plaza downtown last night.

Long-term occupiers were joined by labor groups who passed out pizza and water. Approximately 500 demonstrators had gathered in the plaza by 8 p.m. Friday night. Their numbers briefly doubled when, shortly after 8:30, riders in Critical Mass, a notorious monthly cycling event, stopped by to show support for the group.

A notable no-show was former city-council member Ben Hueso, who had pledged to attend but reportedly became ill with the flu.

Protesters commenced a group sing-along of patriotic songs, culminating with a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

A few protesters circled the plaza, soliciting donations for bail money to release the last few of the reported 51 that were arrested on various charges after police and sheriff’s deputies dismantled the encampment that had slowly begun to re-emerge after being shutdown two weeks ago to make way for a dance festival. Some demonstrators theorized that the decision to make arrests on a Friday was a tactical one, as it would allow those unable to post bail to be held over the weekend until being arraigned on Monday. It was reported by the group that seven of those picked up during the sweep had still not been released.

Tensions briefly escalated when one of the water-filled barricades police had erected to limit access to the plaza from Third Avenue was overturned, sending water and protesters pouring into the street. Several of the two dozen or so officers holding a line across the street rushed to their patrol vehicles and returned with riot shields. They were part of a larger force spread across the plaza.

Demands to speak with a commanding officer, for identification of said officer, for an explanation of the barricades, and for disclosure of any plans to move against the demonstrators were all met with silence. Ultimately there was no major confrontation, though two more protesters were arrested, bringing the day’s total to 53. One was charged with battery for attempting to strike an officer, another assault with a deadly weapon for throwing a can that hit an officer in the face.

As the tensions eased, a large portion of the group left the plaza for a nightly march through downtown, employing chants such as “Out of the bars, into the streets!” and the call-and-response “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like!” Several bemused bar patrons did step out for a moment to pose for pictures with marchers.

Shortly after 10:00 and upon the return of the march, 300 or more protesters continued to occupy the plaza. Police, vowing to firmly enforce rules against sleeping, threatened to arrest anyone who sat down. Enforcement on this rule was later lifted. Though there were sparse reports of arrests of those who fell asleep during the course of the night, most sleeping was condoned, if not explicitly, by officers present. By dawn the group appeared to have thinned to less than a hundred protesters, and police ordered the group roused.

Occupiers have vowed to return to the Civic Center this evening to conduct their daily general assembly and to stay into the night.

Pictured: Protesters and police on October 18

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Comments

waterballerina Oct. 29, 2011 @ 2:48 p.m.

Great coverage! Keep reporting on this, Dave. The word needs to get out. The revolution has begun!

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