After a day of clashes with police, approximately 150 Occupy Oakland protesters remained outside of Frank Ogawa Plaza as midnight approached.
There were at least five new arrests as of 9:15 pm this evening, according to police, and 97 were arrested during the day after police raided two Occupy Oakland encampments at Frank Ogawa Plaza and Snow Park near Lake Merritt.
The protests in the evening were characterized by increasingly violent encounters between protesters and law enforcement officers. Police officers launched canisters of tear gas into crowds of protesters on Broadway at 14th Street in front of Frank Ogawa Plaza at least four times Tuesday night, sending hundreds of people scattering down Broadway. Each time, police warned protesters to disperse before dispensing tear gas.
The clash between protesters and police began in the pre-dawn hours, when at approximately 5:30 am police officers from 16 other agencies joined the OPD in raiding the Occupy Oakland encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza. Shortly afterwards, police also evicted protesters camping at Snow Park near Lake Merritt. About 30 of the people who had been camping in the plaza voluntarily left when the police gave the order to disperse; others were arrested and the police quickly dismantled the tent city. Downtown was temporarily left empty, but protesters vowed to return.
At 4 pm, protesters reconvened for a rally in front of the Oakland Public Library main branch, and marched to the Glenn E. Dyer Detention Facility on 7th Street. They arrived shortly after 6 pm, and were met by dozens of police in riot gear who ordered them to disperse, then fired tear gas at about 6:30 pm.
The protesters then returned to City Center area, where police still maintained a barrier around the perimeter of the plaza. Some protesters removed barricades before they were ordered to stop and disperse by police, or face arrest. About ten minutes later, police launched tear gas again.
After reconvening in Snow Park, protesters returned to 14th and Broadway at about 7:15 pm. After being warned by police that chemical agents would be used if they did not disperse, protesters did not leave the area and containers of tear gas flew from the police side, filling the street with smoke.
At 8 pm, protesters reconvened at 19th and Broadway, and then marched on the plaza again at about 8:30 pm. At 9:30 pm, police fired tear gas into the crowd again after another warning and order to disperse, again sending a crowd fleeing down Broadway. A smaller group of protesters remained in the plaza chanting “We’re still here.” Some were wearing their own gas masks.
At 10:30 pm, protesters returned again to the 14th and Broadway barricade. A group of protesters chanted “You’re sexy, you’re cute, take off your riot suit” to police as others danced in the street.
The Oakland Police Department called a press conference at 9:15 pm on Tuesday to give an update on the day’s events. The city “is committed to facilitating a peaceful protest and constitutional policing,” said OPD Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan. “This has been our goal since October 10 when people were allowed to come to city hall and exercise their First Amendment rights.”
During the evening’s protests, the officers had to deploy tear gas to stop the crowd from throwing things at officers, he said. The loud noises that were heard several times throughout the evening were M-80 explosives thrown at police by protestors, he said.
Jordan said the OPD had not used rubber bullets, as some have reported, and that in fact they do not have them in their arsenal. He said they did use bean bag rounds to stop protestors from throwing objects at officers. But, as one reporter pointed out, 16 different law enforcement agencies responded to the incident, and Jordan could not confirm that none of the 16 agencies were using rubber bullets.
Jordan said he hopes the protesters will cooperate as OPD continues to assess this “very fluid” situation. At the time of the press conference, he said there were about 500 people at 14th and Broadway, and officers were being pelted with rocks and bottles.
Jordan said that the OPD’s goal was to keep Frank Ogawa Plaza clear, because it hasn’t been cleaned yet. The initial decision to move this early this morning was based on public health and safety due to sanitation conditions, fighting, vandalism and other concerns, he said.
“We intend that people will be able to exercise their First Amendment rights on the plaza,” he said. But he said the plaza was going to remain closed due to the volatility of tonight’s events. Jordan reported that two officers were injured when they were pelted with paint and other chemical irritants. He did not have any information about whether any protestors had been injured, but said 97 were arrested Tuesday morning and another 5 that evening.
When asked about Mayor Jean Quan’s response to the day’s events, Jordan said was currently on her way back to Oakland from Washington DC and that she “rushed her flight,” he said.
“The mayor is in Washington doing what she needs to do to make sure the City of Oakland and its citizens are safe,” said Ignacio De La Fuente, president of the Oakland city council, as he stepped up to take the podium.
The actions taken today were “necessary,” De La Fuente said. He said the city was supportive of Occupy Oakland, but officials also have a responsibility to keep the citizens safe. Because of health and safety concerns, the city administrator and the police department “had no choice,” he said.
“We are committed to allow people to express themselves,” he said. But De La Fuente also said there will be no more tents or camps in front of city hall. “Hopefully people understand that we are prepared to enforce rules and laws,” he said.
At approximately midnight, police officers outnumbered protesters about two to one, and the OPD had pulled up two buses to Frank Ogawa Plaza, which protesters speculated meant additional impending arrests. The protesters remaining downtown began a slow clap and started to sing the Imperial March from Star Wars.
There will be another press conference tomorrow morning. Oakland North will continue to follow this story.
Oakland North is now signing off for the night. We’ll be back again Wednesday morning.
You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here.
Reporters Ryan Phillips, Monica Cruz-Rosas, Brittany Schell, Tasion Kwamilele, Adam Grossberg, Megan Molteni, Amina Waheed, Byrhonda Lyons, Catherine Traywick, Byron Wilkes and Dylan Bergeson contributed to this report. Photo slideshow assembled by Jessie Schiewe. Video by John Osborn.