[Photo via Flickr from Saturday at Occupy Oakland.]
[Photo via Flickr]
Dozens of police maintained a late-night guard around City Hall in Oakland, California, following daylong protests that resulted in 300 arrests. Earlier, Occupy Oakland demonstrators broke into the historic building and burned a U.S. flag, and officers earlier fired tear gas to disperse people throwing rocks and tearing down fencing at a convention center.
Saturday's protests -- the most turbulent since Oakland police forcefully dismantled an Occupy encampment in November -- came just days after the group said it planned to use a vacant building as a social center and political hub and threatened to try to shut down the port, occupy the airport and take over City Hall.
An exasperated Mayor Jean Quan, who faced heavy criticism for the police action last fall, called on the Occupy movement to "stop using Oakland as its playground."
[Scott Olsen at Occupy Oakland Saturday via Flickr]
Reports on Saturday claimed protesters tossed pipes, bottles, rocks and flairs at police, but note today that there is no longer any mention of pipes:
Police said they issued a dispersal order and used smoke and tear gas after some protesters pelted them with bottles, rocks, burning flares and other objects.
More help from other police agencies was also sent to Oakland, with busloads of Alameda County sheriff's deputies arriving in the central area late Saturday.
The number keeps rising, as I anticipated after watching the arrests on livestream Saturday, but Reuters is now saying more than 400 Occupy Oakland protesters have been arrested as Saturday night's protests continue into Sunday. That's a significant number, and it trumps the "between 200 and 300" number authorities gave earlier in the day and were reported throughout the media. As has been the case throughout the Occupy movement, police officers and government officials claim they are only doing their jobs of maintaining the peace, while protesters insist the authorities are going way overboard.
Police are supposed to release a "more precise number" of arrests sometime on Sunday.
The reports of police being hit with pipes and more returned in the Reuters article, also:
Police in riot gear moved in, firing smoke grenades, tear gas and bean-bag projectiles to drive the crowd back.
"Officers were pelted with bottles, metal pipe, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices and burning flares," the Oakland Police Department said in a statement. "Oakland Police Department deployed smoke and tear gas."
Some activists, carrying shields made of plastic garbage cans and corrugated metal, tried to circumvent the police line, and surged toward police on another side of the building as more smoke canisters were fired.
Oakland city officials said "extremists" were fomenting the demonstrations and using the city as a playground for the movement. Protesters have accused the city of overreacting and using heavy-handed tactics.
Across the country in New York, police said four people were arrested on Saturday night after protesters clashed with police at what demonstrators had called an "OccuParty" inside an abandoned building in the borough of Brooklyn. Protesters knocked over garbage pails and hurled objects at police, slightly injuring six officers, a police spokesman said. The four people were charged with a variety of crimes including inciting a riot.
"Inciting a riot"? Just a thought, but perhaps if hundreds of police in riot gear with chemical weapons hadn't arrived, maybe there wouldn't have been anything resembling a riot?
[An injured Occupy Oakland protester waits for medical assistance Saturday night - Photo Reuters]
Late Saturday, paramedics wheeled a pregnant protester away from Frank H. Ogawa Plaza after witnesses said she was hit in the kidney by a police baton. She yelled: "Police did this to me!"
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan spoke moments after the City Hall invasion, saying the city would ask for "stay away" orders against many of the protesters who have repeatedly been arrested in Oakland.
"This particular faction of Occupy ... they're very violent and I'm going to be asking for a lot more mutual aid," Quan said, adding that the weekly marches prevent the city's police force from patrolling other parts of Oakland. "They are hurting the neighborhoods by continuing to do this on Saturday nights."
["She was screaming in pain" Photo credit Kevin Army]
In the photo above, yet another injured protester. In a report from Kevin Army at Salon:
One of the remarkable things about Occupy is how kind people are to each other. As I have at other protests here, I met many good and decent people with whom I had great conversations. Most of these people really care about the state of our world, and have embraced this movement with gratitude for having a place where they can figure out ways to take that caring and turn it into tangible action.
I point this out because no matter what the mainstream media says about Saturday’s action, there’s a big piece of the story that can only be absorbed by walking with these people and getting to know them. The heart of Occupy Oakland is so good. It’s been a bit broken by all the repressive police actions, ranging from waging war on the Occupiers the day of the first raid, to arresting people for things as petty as taking a blanket out of a garbage can. In spite of all the attempts to break the the movement’s heart and destroy it, it continues on, beating strongly and moving forward.
I saw ambulances coming down the street. I saw a very young woman on the ground. She had been beaten earlier, and she had to go to the hospital. She was screaming in pain as they carried her on a stretcher to the ambulance. Apparently her only crime had been being present at the protest when she was beaten by the police.
A Federal Judge threatened a federal takeover of the Oakland Police Department just last week if it fails to quickly make good on changes that were agreed to nine years ago.U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said he "remains in disbelief." "This department finds itself woefully behind its peers around the state and nation," he wrote.
The current court-appointed monitor was to submit a report this summer, after Saturday night, will the Federal Judge wait that long? Or after nine years of refusing to rein in cops who beat and frame residents will he say "enough"?
[Mayor Jean] Quan and Police Chief Howard Jordan said a federal takeover wouldn't be necessary because Oakland's new leadership has made compliance with the settlement a priority.
Occupy Oakland issued an official statement regarding Saturday's events, and announced that their weekend planned activities would continue as scheduled.
A call for a mass action against the suppression of the occupy movement was also issued by Emma Kaplan, who is the National Youth and Student Coordinator of "World Can't Wait":
To put the matter bluntly, but truly: the state planned and unleashed naked and systematic violence and repression against people attempting to exercise rights that are supposed to be legally guaranteed. This response by those who wield power in this society is utterly shameful from a moral standpoint, and thoroughly illegitimate from a legal and political one.
Now this movement faces a true crossroads. Will it be dispersed, driven into the margins, or co-opted? Or will it come back stronger? This question now poses itself, extremely sharply.
One thing is clear already: if this illegitimate wave of repression is allowed to stand… if the powers-that-be succeed in suppressing or marginalizing this new movement… if people are once again “penned in”—both literally and symbolically—things will be much worse. THIS SUPPRESSION MUST BE MASSIVELY OPPOSED, AND DEFEATED.
Pick a city: Marches across the nation today in solidarity with Occupy Oakland, livestreams here.
One final note just in, another press release from Occupy Oakland with details on some of the injured, as well as journalists who were arrested by police on Saturday. This sounds as if it was the most serious injury of the evening:
One 19 year old woman was taken to the hospital with internal bleeding after she was beaten by Officer #119.
Watch for more updates as accurate arrest totals are reported, as well as information about those who have been injured.