Late-night Occupy Oakland crowd marches jubilantly through city streets

After Occupy Oakland protesters reconvened at Frank Ogawa Plaza Wednesday night and voted to organize a city-wide general strike on November 2, a jubilant crowd poured out into the city streets, dancing and cheering.

But their attempts to head across the bay to join the Occupy San Francisco group were thwarted by BART officers, who shut down the 12th Street BART entrance as protesters–including those towing a giant stereo system on wheels–tried to make their way into the station. For about ten minutes, protesters chanted “Police brutality!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” at the BART officers before moving on to the 14th Street and Broadway intersection.

The crowd then massed itself into an impromptu march that took protesters past the Glenn E. Dyer detention facility at 7th Street and Washington, then back up Broadway, and then down to San Pablo Avenue near the Greyhound bus station, where they waved to security guards to come join them and passing cars honked in support. They passed West Grand and then circled back towards downtown.

Police officers, some in riot gear, were stationed near the jail as well as at 12th Street between Broadway and Franklin, and at San Pablo and West Grand, but officers did not interact with the marchers. When a few protesters stopped to face the officers or take their pictures, other marchers chided them, crying “Get back in the march!” and “Do not provoke!”

The marchers played music as they went, dancing to hits by the Jackson 5 and Missy Elliot, forming a line that at 11:45 pm filled the street for several city blocks.  As they continued along city streets, police cars and motorcycles appeared to be accompanying them along parallel side streets, monitoring their progress block by block without directly interfering.

Meanwhile, the crowd at the plaza in front of City Hall had thinned out considerably. By 10:45, only a few dozen people were left, including the single protester who had returned to the plaza with a tent, a man who called himself Jack Riot, who was spotted blowing bubbles. Asked if he planned to sleep there, he said, “Hopefully some other people want to join me.”

As he spoke, another man walked up and began laying out his sleeping bag. “It’s all about solidarity. If people see one tent then more people will come back,” said the man, who gave his name as Stephen.

Some of the protesters who joined the Oakland crowd tonight said they had arrived after seeing media coverage of the confrontations between police and protesters Tuesday night. Patrick Schindler said he drove out from Livermore to be here after seeing last night’s news.  “I didn’t like the overreactions by the police,” he said.   “I’m going to be super calm and peaceful tonight and wait for them (the police) to step on shit.”

Others had been following the protest for weeks. Andrew Reichart, a 20-year Oakland resident and the director of accounts management at a software company, said he wanted to speak out because “There’s a very prevalent stereotype going around that everyone involved in this is a crusty punk, a ‘professional anarchist.’” His employer’s offices are right next to City Hall and he said he had been stopping by the protest three times a day. He said he hopes it is the “leading edge of a worldwide transformation” into “a more egalitarian civilaztion, more just, more fun, more wholesome.”

Several participants noted how much calmer the protest was compared to Tuesday night’s. On Tuesday night, said Temescal resident Adriane Tillman, 29, “I didn’t see some cohesive idea. The most vocal voices were aggravating the police. I felt like the issues were getting confused. [Tonight], it feels more organized.”

“I think there’s a good solid group of people,” said Josh Loberg, who is visiting from Costa Rica. “Everybody’s actually tightened up in here and ready to listen to something.”

As of midnight, the 12th Street BART station had reopened, and a few hundred marchers were standing or sitting in circles in the nearby intersection, discussing whether to go home or head to San Francisco.

Oakland North will continue reporting the Occupy Oakland protests Thursday morning.

You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here. 

This article was reported by Brittany Schell, Monica Cruz-Rosas, David Ferry, Lexi Pandell, Rachel Waldholz, Maggie Beidelman, Alex Park, and Wendi Jonassen.  Thanks to the reporters of Richmond Confidential for help.

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