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Protesters clash with police throughout evening as tear gas fills the air

on October 26, 2011

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.


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  4. EastBayTom on October 26, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Why can’t Oakland protests be more like peaceful OWS Protests that are able to gain support of the public? Oakland is leading the decline of the OWS movement by its inability to control provocateurs in their midst: anarchists, nihilists, punks, gang members, looters, skinheads, vandals, etc. exploit the protest to pursue their own incompatible agendas. No legitimate protester should ever throw paint, urine, glass, M-80s or anything else at the police, smash a store window, steal anything, or vandalize public property.
    Occupy Oakland needs it’s own security team to actually *work with the police* to identify and detain the provocateurs. Anyone seen throwing anything at the police or other illegal or violent acts should immediately be identified as a provocateur, detained and handed over to the police on the spot.

    • Susan Livingston on October 26, 2011 at 10:54 am

      Don’t kid yourself EastBayTom. Occupations everywhere share the provocateur problem. In a movement that seeks to be inclusive, it’s not a matter of “inability to control.” It’s issues of self-control, self-responsibility, and autonomy *for everyone* that the movement is addressing, and I don’t fault them if they can’t quite manage it after a month when our culture has been trying unsuccessfully for centuries. I applaud their security teams for NOT “working with the police” who depend on domination and control to *enforce* ALL of the laws, not just the ones we like. There are anarchists, nihilists, punks, gang members, and skinheads who are totally on board with the nonviolent intention. Throwing things at the police and looting and vandalism are behaviors enacted by desperate people and in no way invalidates their legitimacy among the 99%. Who among us has never done anything we regret – or that we DON’T regret but which nevertheless results in harm to another?

      • EastBayTom on October 26, 2011 at 3:15 pm

        Sigh. Do not attempt to excuse or pardon the provocative violence, it is destroying the movement. Occupy Oakland carries excessive baggage from Oscar Grant and other Bay Area niche issues. Unless it broadens its appeal by getting on-message and on-tactics with OWS, FOLLOWS *OUR* LAWS and controls the niche interests, it can not win the majority support necessary to change the status quo. IMHO that is not the MLK/Ghandi way. The majority will abandon it, leaving only the violent elements behind, who will be suppressed like other violent movements before it, and it will set the whole movement back a decade or more.

        Tahrir Square succeeded because they included the police as a part of them, appealed to patriotism and to the majority of Egyptians. Occupy Oakland looks increasingly like it has been co-opted by these anarchic/nihilist niche movements.

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