Bay City News--About seven tents remain at the Occupy Berkeley encampment in Civic Center Park this evening, according to a spokesman for Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.
The encampment had grown to more than 100 tents in recent weeks but had declined to about 20 tents as of Thursday morning after Berkeley police recently began distributing notices saying that the park closes at 10 p.m. and anyone found camping there after that time would be required to remove their tents.
Nils Moe, a spokesman for Bates, said most protesters at the park have left voluntarily. However, he said, "There are a few stragglers who are sitting and waiting."
Earlier today, Berkeley police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said police would monitor the situation in the park and continue to do "walk-throughs" there but declined to say if police will arrest protesters who remain there after 10 p.m. tonight.
"We don't share our tactical plans and we will evaluate the situation on a case-by-case basis," Kusmiss said. "We will react to how participants behave."
Kusmiss said two people were arrested overnight when protesters clashed with police officers and Public Works Department employees who were removing abandoned tents from the park.
Bates said in a statement that he believes the Occupy Wall Street movement "has done this country a great service, by pointing out the disparity between the very rich and the rest of us."
But, he said, "The encampment in Civic Center Park has lately become a health and safety problem. There has been an attempted rape, arrests for having knives and a gun, and numerous fights, including an assault with a two-by-four." He also said three cases of food poisoning have occurred.
Bates said the city recently told the campers that it needs to enforce its regulations pertaining to health and safety in the park.
He said, "We thank the majority of the people who have voluntarily left and hope the handful of others will follow their lead. It would be great to declare victory and move on together to realizing the important goals of equity, and of making government work for all of us."
Earlier today, Mike, a protester who declined to give his last name, said he and a small group of others plan to stay in the park despite the city's warning.
"We're not finished," he said. "Our right to peaceably assemble should not be abridged."
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