Oakland protesters return to the streets

Occupy activists stage late-night march to protest over police crackdown, and say will call for city-wide strike.

Thousands of activists have returned to central Oakland a day after police in California raided the Occupy protest camp there and fired tear gas into crowds of demonstrators.

An estimated 1,500 Occupy Oakland supporters regrouped in front of City Hall on Wednesday where they tore down police barricades that had been erected around the city’s main plaza.

An activist, who asked not to be named, told Al Jazeera police told her earlier on Wednesday that they were preparing for “round two” of street battles.

After a “general assembly” process, in which decisions are made by consensus, the group announced it would call for a general strike in Oakland for November 2.

The group then began a peaceful march through Oakland’s central business district.

“We were going to head to San Francisco because they were getting evicted, but we couldn’t because they closed BART [the local metro station],” Patrick Knoll, a protester who has been involved in the organising process since the early planning phase, told Al Jazeera.

The BART station was closed due to “civil disturbance”, according to its website.

Demonstrators then marched toward the city prison, where protesters arrested the previous day were still being held.

“We marched to the jail to be in solidarity with all the people that were arrested during at the occupation, and also with all prisoners,” said Knoll.

Wednesday’s late night march peacefully wound through Oakland streets for hours until the group of more than a thousand dispersed close to midnight.

Tuesday’s clashes

Police in riot gear used tear gas on a crowd of more than 1,000 people on Tuesday as the group marched on Oakland’s city government building to condemn arrests made at the Occupy Oakland camp earlier that day.

The crowd was dispersed with what protesters described as stun grenades, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds, as well as tear gas, but protesters continued to gather and re-gather for almost eight hours throughout the evening.

Demonstrators were temporarily pushed out of the central plaza in the city’s business district where Tuesday’s conflict had started.

Ali Winston, a local radio reporter, told Al Jazeera: “There have been two incidents of tear gas, flash-bang grenades and less-than-lethal projectiles, [such as] beanbags being fired at the crowd.”

Police detained and arrested protesters, but the exact number has yet to be released.

“It’s really, really tense, and I think the cops are trying to walk a fine line, but I don’t think they are going to back down and neither are the demonstrators,” said Cat Brooks, an Occupy Oakland spokesperson.

Protest leaders said their march was aimed at reclaiming Frank Ogawa Plaza, which had served as a camp location for two weeks of protests against alleged economic inequality in the city.Demonstrators staying in the camp claim to be the Oakland version of the Occupy Wall Street movement launched more than a month ago in New York.

Prior to the thwarted march on City Hall, Oakland police had arrested 85 protesters camped in the Frank Ogawa Plaza encampment on Tuesday morning. Most of the detainees were taken into custody on suspicion of illegal lodging, a misdemeanour.

Protester accounts

Karen Boyd, an Oakland police spokesperson, told the Reuters news agency “those arrested now face charges for camping or assembling without a permit”.

Boyd said the Oakland police began to clear the plaza before dawn and had “contained” the area within an hour. Boyd said that there were no reports of injuries, but protesters and witnesses claimed otherwise.

A female demonstrator told a local news agency: “They were like, “You have a few minutes”, and then even before the minutes passed they started shooting off. And then, even after the fact that everybody left, they kept shooting.” 

Jean Quan, the mayor of Oakland, said in a statement that she told the protesters to stop the overnight camping and cooking in the public plaza.

“Over the last week, it was apparent that neither the demonstrators nor the city could maintain safe or sanitary conditions, or control the ongoing vandalism,” she said.

The mayor’s office said conditions at the plaza had begun to deteriorate by the second week of the protests. Police,
fire officials and healthcare workers said they were denied access to the plaza to respond to service calls.

Officials also said the plaza was damaged by graffiti, litter and vandalism.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies