On Occupy Oakland’s one-month anniversary, a man was shot and killed on the outskirts of the encampment Thursday afternoon.
Witnesses at the scene said the victim was shot at around 5 pm, following an altercation with a small group of African American men that erupted near the portable toilets on the northeast side of the encampment.
Police Chief Howard Johnson confirmed at a press conference that the victim, whose name was being withheld, died in the hospital about two hours after being shot.
Israel Jurich, a camp volunteer who was working at the Interfaith tent at the time of the incident, said he heard several shots ring out, then saw the victim running toward the intersection of Broadway and 14th Street. He said the victim—whom other witnesses identified as an African American man wearing jeans and a red and white jacket—collapsed about 15 feet from the BART station entrance.
A crowd immediately formed around the victim, some holding up their cell phones, he said.
Charmz Valentino, 26, one of the bystanders who surrounded the victim after he collapsed, said that she ran towards the scene after hearing “four or five gunshots.”
“Me and a couple of my friends, one of which is a medic, ran towards it,” Valentino said. “When I got to him someone was trying to resuscitate him. We were linking arms to create a barrier, so that the press couldn’t get in to see what was happening.”
Several bystanders, including some camp medics, according to witnesses, tried to revive the young man by performing chest compressions.
“There was quite a bit of blood everywhere,” Valentino said.
In a statement distributed by her press liaison, Mayor Jean Quan called the shooting “unacceptable” regardless of whether it was directly related to the Occupy Oakland encampment. “Whether a murder occurs here or at 98th and International, I call on all Oaklanders to demand peace and reject violence anywhere,” the statement read.
Quan said the shooting “underscores the reason why the encampment must end. The risks are too great.” She called camping “a tactic, not a solution,” and said that as part of her office’s effort to persuade the campers to leave voluntarily, she was sending outreach workers to Frank Ogawa plaza tonight and making available “additional shelter beds” at CityTeam Ministries, for men, and Crossroads Shelter, for women.
Just after the shooting, according to Isreal Jurich, a television reporter who arrived on the scene before the police, was assaulted by protesters after he tried to take video of the victim on the ground. The reporter, cameraman Randy Davis of San Francisco television station ABC Channel 7, was punched, according to Jurich. The station confirmed Thursday evening that Davis was assaulted and injured by crowd members.
Several police cars and an ambulance arrived on the scene about five minutes after the shooting. Witnesses said paramedics were performing CPR on the victim as they loaded him into the ambulance. As police officers secured the crime scene, three protesters began lighting candles around its perimeter.
At 6 pm, about 50 protesters gathered in the amphitheater in Frank Ogawa Plaza to discuss how the camp should deal with the incident. In their signature style of communal communication, which they call the “human mic,” protesters took turns expressing their opinions in chunks of five words or less, while the people around them repeated each statement in unison so that everyone could hear.
“I think this was inevitable at some point,” said one young woman from Berkeley who declined to give her real name, but identified herself at Sky MS. “We are in Oakland,” she said, adding that the camp should send a representative to speak to the media to “show we are not afraid of what happened and it has nothing to do with us.”
Dave Firestein, 28, an elementary school teacher in Hayward, disagreed. “This is not an opportunity to showboat for the press,” he said. “We are not politicians. This was not us. And we don’t need to talk to them.”
But Sky countered: “I think we need to remember that there’s violence that happens in every city and that it is targeted against people of color–which is part of why we are here. This is an opportunity to provide some analysis here, to recognize that what we are fighting against is part of this issue.”
The group was divided as to whether they should present a unified front to the media or “focus on supporting and comforting each other,” as one woman said.
The group eventually agreed to hold a vigil at 10 pm, which would be open to anyone who wanted to participate, and would circle the plaza.
“Though this is tragic,” one woman said, “we need to find a way to honor our one month anniversary, while honoring the life that was lost here tonight.”
You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here.
NOTE: this isn’t the first death associated with an Occupy camp in North America. On Saturday, November 6, a woman in her early twenties was found dead in a tent at the Occupy Vancouver encampment. Since news of the incident broke, Vancouver’s mayor has also ordered camp residents to be evicted, but protesters have vowed to stay. Vancouver’s Global BC News Hour has the story.
CORRECTION: A version of this article published on November 10, 2011 incorrectly quoted a source as saying that ABC 7 reporter Randy Davis was punched in the face by protesters. The article has been changed to reflect ABC 7’s confirmation that Davis was struck in the head and not in the face.