Police officers raided the Occupy Oakland encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza early Monday morning, evicting scores of protesters, arresting 32 people and closing off the plaza. There were no injuries, according to police.
At an 8:30 AM press conference at the city emergency center near Oakland City Hall, Mayor Jean Quan said she decided to move ahead with the eviction because of what she saw as a recent change in the Occupy Oakland movement, as well as a shooting death nearby the camp last week. Quan said that after engaging in talks with protesters, many decided to leave peacefully.
“We had to bring the camp to an end before anyone else got hurt,” said a visibly exhausted Quan, her voice cracking as she spoke. “I’ve tried to do what’s best for the city, I’ve tried to keep everyone safe.”
City Administrator Deanna Santana agreed that violence at the camp, especially the killing nearby on Thursday, hastened the decision to raid the camp and evict protesters for the second time in three weeks.
“At the camp there have been reports of fires, some in tents, assaults, and this week, a homicide,” Santana said.
Santana said plans took action when mutual aid from other departments was secured. Police at the plaza included county sheriffs from Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo, and police departments from San Francisco, San Leandro, Hayward and Fremont. According to Santana, because the raid was planned and not an emergency, the cost to the city for the day’s mutual aid help will total somewhere between $300,000 and $500,000.
At 9:30 am, there still was at least one protester in a tree behind police barricades in the plaza. Interim Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said the plaza will reopen at 6 pm today without a curfew, but that police will no longer allow lodging at any time, andthat there will be an enforcement presence at all times in the immediate future.
A small encampment of protesters at Snow Park near Lake Merritt remained intact Monday morning. Jordan said police would not dismantle it today, but could do so soon. A number of protesters left Frank Ogawa Plaza for Snow Park on Monday, both in the hours before and after the raid by police.
Campers had been bracing for a raid this weekend, and many had begun to pack and leave already after receiving eviction notices from the city on Saturday.
On Saturday afternoon, Oakland Police delivered a “cease and desist” order from the city administrator’s office to the protesters, ordering them out of the plaza and not including a specific time to leave. On Saturday evening, the city administrator’s office issued a new warning—an online Notice of Violations and Demand to Cease Violations that warned protesters they would be arrested if they continue to camp overnight.
After receiving the second order, Occupy Oakland campers braced themselves for police action that night. A few people packed up their things as early as 7:30 pm Sunday night, tensing at the sound of sirens from passing ambulances, while others tore down their tents at 10 pm, in anticipation of police “closing” the park by force.
After midnight, police from Oakland and other departments started gathering at the Oakland Coliseum am, in preparation for the planned predawn Monday raid. By 4 am, police had surrounded the plaza and had established barricades around the plaza’s surrounding blocks. According to a protester named Patrick, police then soon began to move through the camp and making arrests as people standing by yelled and booed. “Some of them got pretty rough, throwing tents around,” Patrick said of police on the scene, “but that was about it from what I saw.”
Jon Jackson, a volunteer at the camp’s Interfaith tent, said 11-15 of the protesters arrested were clergy and seminary students who were sitting arm-in-arm and singing when they were taken into custody. “Our intent was to be the first thing that police saw when they entered the camp,” Jackson said. “A very peaceful circle with candles.”
By 7 am, city officials, including Quan, had arrived to tour the camp, and were led on a walk-through by about ten police officers.
The plaza in which the tent encampment had stood appared to be empty of people at that time, and in front of city hall tents were almost all flattened and down. Police officers from several agencies stood watching around the perimeter of the plaza.
The tent city itself had been reduced to a swath of dirty tent fabric and debris: a faded wood chair, a sign reading “quiet time: 12-9 am,” empty cups, plastic bottles, foam pillows, clusters of trash-filled portable toilets, mounds of crumpled bedding on the wet grass, and a lone hand-lettered sign reading “quiet time: 12-9 am.” The sagging first aid tent was crumpled and empty.
At 7:15 am, interim Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan and City Administrator Deanna Santana toured the deserted encampment, trailed by Arturo Sanchez, the assistant to the city administrator. Howard stopped briefly and smiled, studying one of the small vegetable plots planted by protesters. The crowd of chanting protesters on the other side of the police barricades diminished steadily over the morning, and by 7:30 it was a small group that stood at 14th and Broadway, some shouting at a group of about 50 police officers from OPD as well as the Hayward Police Department and Alameda County Sherriff’s office. Someone in the crowd held up a sign reading “Judge Felton Henderson is watching.”
At 8 am, Broadway remained closed from 12th to 17th Streets.
The raid Monday morning was the second by police on the camp, which has been occupied by protesters since October 10, and came amid growing calls from city officials and downtown business leaders for the encampment to be shut down as a public safety hazard and a financial drain on local businesses. On Wednesday, five city councilmembers and business leaders held a press conference – which was interrupted by shouting protesters – in which they called for the immediate removal of the camp.
On Thursday, on the camp’s one-month anniversary, a man was shot and killed near the tent city, That evening, Quan released a statement that read “Tonight’s incident underscores the reason why the encampment must end. The risks are too great. We need to return OPD resources to addressing violence throughout the city. It’s time for the encampment to end. Camping is a tactic, not a solution.”
Police raided Occupy Oakland encampments for the first time on October 25, evicting more than 100 protesters in the early morning hours from Frank Ogawa Plaza and a smaller camp set up at Snow Park near Lake Merritt.
That evening, with the plaza still barricaded, protesters clashed with police in the street around the plaza. Days later, protesters returned to camping in the plaza, and hundreds of tents began going back up in the plaza.
Protesters and police clashed again on Broadway on Nov. 2, following a “day of action” and a general strike, when some protesters returned downtown after thousands of people shut down downtown banks and marched on the Port of Oakland earlier in the day. According to police, 103 people were arrested.
Ryan Phillips compiled this report. Photo slideshow assembled by Amina Waheed.
You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here.