On Thursday evening, hundreds of Occupy Oakland supporters gathered in the amphitheater at Frank Ogawa Plaza to discuss details of a general citywide strike planned for November 2, and to support war veteran Scott Olsen, who was injured during the confrontation between police and protesters earlier this week.
Just two days after the intersection of 14th and Broadway was filled with police barricades, smoke from tear-gas, and thousands of protesters marching through the streets, downtown Oakland seemed to be getting back to normal. People walked to and from work, and traffic flowed at a steady pace. In the plaza’s field area, mud, hay, and yellow patches in the grass marked where about 100 tents stood before Tuesday’s early morning raid that demolished the camp site. As of 7:30 pm Thursday, 15 tents had sprung back up, including a food tent, where people served chickpeas, rice, and string beans.
At 5 pm, the protesters held a committee meeting during which they sketched out the details of the strike, voting to gather three times on the strike day—at 9 am, noon, and 6 pm—to give those who cannot leave their jobs that day a chance to demonstrate.
After voting in favor of the three meeting times, the protesters split off into groups that ranged from 15 to over 100 people to discuss outreach strategies to get the community, schools, media, and unions involved in their demonstrations. “This is part of the process,” said Shake Anderson, a media relations officer for Occupy Oakland. “We split up into four groups to figure out how we’re going to get the word out to the people.”
By the time the committee meeting drew to a close at 7 pm, over 1,000 people had flooded into the plaza to support wounded Occupy protester Scott Olsen, an Iraq war veteran, who was hit in the head with a projectile during the riot Tuesday night. Every inch of the amphitheater was occupied by people illuminating the space with candles and holding posters of Olsen and signs that read “Wall Street = The real terrorist.” According to Olsen’s friends who addressed the crowd, he is in “stable, but serious condition.”
Claire Chadwick, who tried to help Olsen after he had been injured during the protests, was among those who addressed the crowd. “I didn’t know Scott, but we were bonded together in solidarity,” she said, her voice cracking. “I’m honored I had the opportunity to stand next to veterans like Josh [Shepherd] and Scott, some of the most peaceful protesters I saw, and fight for a cause I believe in.” As Chadwick spoke, sniffles could be heard throughout the crowd.
A man who identified himself as a Vietnam War veteran got up to the mic and pointed to the crowd. “I’ve been in Oakland since 1974 and never seen anything like this,” he said, as people cheered. “People have to be held accountable. If it was Jean Quan, then she needs to resign. If it was Chief Howard Jordan, he needs to resign, or be fired.”
Mayor Quan had planned to address the crowd during the “speak out” portion of the general assembly meeting, but she later issued a written statement in which she apologized for not being present. “I had hoped to speak directly to you tonight. I was told that I could speak at the ‘speak out’ at 6 pm, but that was cancelled. So, I apologize for providing these remarks in written form,” she wrote.
Quan, who was at the White House during the police raids on the Occupy Oakland camp site at Frank Ogawa Plaza, wrote in her statement that she “was saddened about the outcome on Tuesday” and that she has started an investigation into the use of police force, including tear gas. “I cannot change the past, but I want to work with you to ensure that this remains peaceful moving forward,” Quan wrote.
In her statement, Quan included requests for Occupy protesters, asking that they maintain healthy and safe conditions where they gather, allow public safety employees to access their camps during emergencies and to not camp overnight in the plaza. She also offered to meet with the protesters’ representatives and Chief Jordan. ”We need to have direct communications between city staff and your representatives,” she wrote.
Similarly, a press release issued Thursday night by City Administrator Deanna Santana laid out conditions for demonstrations, including free access for first responders in case of medical emergencies, and prohibiting public urination, defecation and vandalism in Frank Ogawa Plaza.
In her statement, Quan thanked the occupiers for protesting peacefully on Wednesday night and promised to continue “to order minimal police presence.”
“When there’s violence, there are no winners—it polarizes us and opens old wounds rather than brings us together, which is the aim of Occupy Wall Street and uniting the 99 percent,” Quan wrote.
North Oakland Councilmember Jane Brunner (District 1), who was present at the plaza during Thursday night’s Occupy Oakland meeting, said she will not make comments on Tuesday’s police raids until the Oakland Police Department conducts a thorough investigation of the events. “We need to know who did what, look at every video and see what lessons we can learn,” she said.
Brunner said council members were not briefed about the decisions regarding the eviction of protesters from their camp sites, nor about the use of tear gas by police, until Wednesday night. “That’s what frustrating to me as a councilmember. I should have been briefed by the City Administration and the OPD,” she said in an interview with Oakland North before the vigil. “They should have included us in that decision.”
Brunner said that after Tuesday’s raids and clash between protesters and police officers, Oakland officials need to establish a plan for how to support the Occupy protesters while assuring public safety. “Mistakes were made? Absolutely,” she said. “If the tents are allowed, it could only happen with an agreement between the city and the campers, and after fire marshalls make proper inspections and police response is allowed.”
Reiko Kikage, a 30-year-old IT technician from East Oakland who had been camping in the plaza since the first day of the occupation, said he’s excited for a new beginning. “That was Occupy Oakland on training wheels. It was an experiment,” he said of the original encampment. “We can do a lot better. This time we all need to listen and pitch in.”
You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here.