This morning (as I mentioned) police from Oakland and 15 other local law enforcement agencies sacked and pillaged the Occupy Oakland camp in downtown Oakland. Oakland’s mayor was in Washington, DC at the time, trying to secure funding for the Port of Oakland, but insisted that the raid was necessary because of public safety concerns.
This evening, protesters gathered to object to this interference in the Constitutional right to assemble, to speak freely, and to petition their government for redress of grievances, to protest police violence, and to restore the camp. While various local TV stations have remarkable video of the resulting mayhem, Oakland North’s coverage has been notable, so let them explain. Protesters gathered some distance from the original encampment, dispersed when police threatened to fire tear gas, and reassembled around the now-closed site of the old camp:
Police were waiting there as well and had surrounded the plaza. Some protesters then began removing barricades at 14th and Broadway, dragging them into the street and sidewalk. Police tightened their line and appeared to load tear gas containers, and announced on a megaphone that protestors had assembled illegally and anyone who didn’t disperse in five minutes would be arrested. After a few minutes of chanting, protesters then headed back down Broadway toward Telegraph Avenue, where the march appeared to die down, at least temporarily, at about 7 p.m.
Protesters reconvened at Snow Park where they spoke over the megaphone, with some wanting to keep marching and others suggesting that camp should be set up at the park. The crowd overwhelmingly wanted to go back to the plaza, cheering and chanting “These are our streets!” A speaker encouraged them to stay on the main streets so police wouldn’t be able to barricade them in.
At about 7:15 p.m., protesters returned to Broadway and 14th Street where police had reassembled a barricade. When police again announced protesters must leave or they would be arrested, and that chemical agents would be used, protesters stayed. Containers of tear gas flew from the police side, filling the street with smoke. There were several loud bangs [flashbangs: grenades that produce mostly sound and light, and not much shrapnel], and in the tear gas haze, people gasped for breath. Some protesters threw trashcans in the middle of the street, and someone started a fire in a trashcan. But the majority of people ran away from the gas.
By 8 pm, protesters appeared to be reconvening at 19th and Broadway, and then marched toward the plaza again at just before 8:30 p.m. As of 9 pm, a crowd of approximately 500 people had gathered at 14th and Broadway, where protesters chanted “We are the 99 percent” and “Where’s Mayor Quan?”
Reports on twitter describe protesters moving quickly to prevent fires, littering, or violence, and reports are uniform in saying there was no looting of stores, as there had been in the same area during riots after protests over the murder of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer. There’s also dramatic footage and photography of protesters running into the clouds of tear gas to rescue a woman in a motorized wheelchair whose batteries had run out.
The Oakland PD claimed that they fired tear gas defensively, in response to protesters throwing things at them. Reporters and protesters on twitter dispute the claim of violence directed at the police, and have taken pictures of tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, flashbangs, and other dangerous munitions fired at the peaceful protesters.
Occupy Oakland plans another march tomorrow at 6 pm. I plan to be there, camera in hand, to document the march, to stand up for basic constitutional rights, to protest police brutality, and to wonder we saw no such violence even concern directed by police towards teabaggers bearing loaded assault rifles or the banksters who destroyed the world economy.