As veterans protest, police distribute eviction fliers to Occupy Oakland campers
on November 11, 2011
As the antiwar advocacy groups Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War held a joint press conference Friday afternoon in front of City Hall, near the center of the Occupy Oakland encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland Police arrived at the plaza and began handing out “Notice of Violations” fliers. The fliers stated that all belongings and infrastructure must be removed from the plaza “immediately.” They warned, “Your continued use of the Plaza for overnight lodging will subject you to arrest.”
But police took no immediate action to re-evict the scores of campers still settled in at Frank Ogawa Plaza, and as of 9:00 Friday night, a rainy afternoon of continued protest and marches appeared to be settling into another long evening of planning, General Assembly meeting, and rumors as to when and whether police might surround the camp to roust the overnight protesters. Little additional detail was made available by police Friday on the fatal shooting the night before in the area of the Occupy Oakland camp; Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson released a statement saying only that the shooting suspect was described by witnesses as a 20 to 25 year old short-haired African American man, about 150 pounds, who had been “a frequent resident” of the Plaza encampment in recent days.
The full name of Thursday night’s victim, a man, was still being withheld Friday, Watson said. A second suspect also being sought is described as a much bigger man, about 250 pounds, with long red-tipped dreadlocks and possibly a tattoo on the back of his neck, Watson said. A reward of up to $10,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case, she said.
In several interviews Friday evening, protesters who declined to be named said they believed the gunman was a person who had been forced to leave the camp after accusations that he was harrassing women and children. Several complaints had been made in the Occupy camp against this man, one of the campers said, adding that the man who finally ejected him was the victim in the shooting.
A camper who said he was a witness to the shooting, but was afraid to give his own name, said everyone “knew who he [the gunman] was”–that he had become familiar as a troublemaker around women and children. After he was made to leave, the witness said, the ejected man came back with a gun and got into a heated argument with the man who had finally forced him out. This argument, the witness said, ended with the shooting.
“The guy was a pedophile,” said one woman, who said that she and her husband had spent two weeks at Occupy Oakland after traveling from their home in Alabama. “He got beaten up and got kicked out, then went, got a gun, came back, and killed that guy.” The couple is planning to leave Oakland, the woman, said, because they no longer believe Occupy Oakland is safe.
Although the shooting and its implications for the encampment were the subject of much discussion and argument outside the camp Friday, there was almost no public mention of the death at the Veterans Day Press conference–which took place on the one-month anniversary of Occupy Oakland. Television cameramen squatted on the steps of City Hall as a group of about 40 people who identified themselves as veterans took turns speaking into a megaphone. They decried the injury of veterans during recent protests, including the Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who was placed in critical care after sustaining a head wound on during police-protester confrontations the night of November 2.
A speaker named Mike Wong, who said he was also a veteran, called on Oakland Mayor Jean Quan to fire Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan and replace him with an officer who would more vigorously restrain police. “In every case of police brutality against veterans, the veteran involved did not use his considerable training to retaliate,” Wong said.
Bobby Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, who was shot to death by BART police two years ago, joined the Friday protest. “I stand in solidarity, first as a veteran and second against police brutality,” Johnson said.
Then he led the crowd in a call-and-response chant: “I am Oscar Grant!” “I am Scott Olsen!” “All power to the people!” “Let this be the beginning of major change in the U.S.!”
After the press conference, the crowd of roughly 300 proceeded to march through pouring rain, completing a circuit around the plaza, then heading down Broadway to the city’s police headquarters. Five officers in riot gear and batons stood in front of the glass doors as more officers watched from inside. Protesters stood behind the line of veterans. Between chants, speakers addressed police through a megaphone with specific messages.
“We know many of you are vets too,” one man said. “We respect you and we hope that respect is returned.”
“You are the 99 percent too,” another said.
After a few minutes, a man yelled, “About face, hut!” The line of veterans turned on their heels and headed back to the plaza, the crowd behind them, for a three hour General Assembly meeting.
During the meeting, Oakland Police Officers Robert Cooper and Dave Burke, who had distributed the fliers earlier that evening, spoke with a group of protesters gathered around them near the street.
Cooper said he agreed with some of the Occupy protesters’ complaints. “There’s corporations that have managed to influence what’s going on with our government,” he said. “In that sense I do agree, if that’s the message.”
But he doesn’t think they should camp in Frank Ogawa Plaza, he said. “I’m a resident here in the city of Oakland,” Cooper said. “I don’t like the way the City Hall plaza looks with the encampment.”
You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here.
Reporting by Dylan Bergeson, Amna Hassan, and Amina Waheed.
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