SAN FRANCISCO -- Homeless people camped out in a plaza underneath the mayor's City Hall office window were warned by police Thursday they must move out or be evicted.
At the behest of Mayor Art Agnos, police warned they will begin evicting the homeless squatters from the tree-lined Civic Center Plaza they have claimed the last two years with their tents, makeshift shelters and shopping carts.
The San Francisco encampment has become an eyesore for Agnos, whose office balcony overlooks the plaza.
City residents and merchants have complained bitterly about the shabby camp. But Agnos refused to order the residents -- who sometimes grew to more than 300 -- out because of a shortage of city shelter space.
The mayor finally ordered a sweep of the plaza after two new centers to put the homeless in a variety of city shelter facilities opened Monday.
Most of the Civic Center Plaza homeless have complied with Agnos's program to move them off the street. But some of several dozen still remaining say they'll refuse police orders to leave.
'I call it standing up for what I believe in,' said Jake Howard, has been homeless since the October earthquake.
For one thing, they say, they don't want to be forced indoors. They also don't want to have to obey the rigid rules and suffer the lack of privacy at shelters.
Police said they would begin warning the plaza settlers Thursday night they will no longer be able to stay. Enforcement of the city law against overnight sleeping in a public area will begin Friday, Larry Bush, mayor's spokesman, said.
The plaza was the only place where the city ban against sleeping overnight was suspended.
'This has been a zone where people were, in a sense, almost invited because they were told there would be no enforcement,' Bush said.
Violators will be ticketed and then arrested if they persist in camping, Bush said.
San Francisco's eviction deadline came one day after about 250 homeless protesters from San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose and Sonoma County took chartered buses to Santa Cruz to fight the resort town's anti-camping law.
They staged a noisy two-hour Fourth of July downtown march and rally at the county courthouse, decrying Santa Cruz's ordinance against sleeping overnight on public lands and its lack of affordable housing.
'Jesus was homeless by choice,' one of their signs read.
But their demonstration triggered a counter-rally at nearby City Hall by about 1,000 angry members and supporters of 'Take Back Our Town' who urged even tougher measures against 'bums, freeloaders and squatters.'
'We've got a real homey town with some sparkle and we're losing it,' Tony Correia, 23, Soquel, an organizer of the rally who wore a red shirt with 'Get a job' stenciled on the back, said.