It all started peacefully, just over two weeks ago, as Occupy Oakland activists set up an encampment opposite Oakland City Hall, joining with the numerous camps around the country to protest against corporate greed and a wide range of other economic issues.
Tensions had been building between the city and protesters since last week as officials complained about what they described as deteriorating safety, sanitation and health issues within the camp.
Pre-Dawn Raid Destroys Camp
But it all escalated rapidly with a pre-dawn raid on Tuesday, October 25, when police evicted the protestors, destroying belongings such as tents and sleeping bags and establishing their own presence.
On Tuesday evening, the protestors came back, determined to retake their encampment.
The evening protest started around 5 p.m., when about 400 people began marching from the main library at 14th and Madison streets toward the plaza, which police had barricaded and city officials had declared would be closed for at least several days.
Police gave repeated warnings to protesters to disperse from the entrance to Frank Ogawa Plaza at 14th Street and Broadway before firing several tear gas canisters into the crowd at about 7:45 p.m. Police had announced over a loudspeaker that those who refused to leave could be targeted by “chemical agents.”
Protesters scattered in both directions on Broadway as the tear gas canisters and several flash-bang grenades went off. Regrouping, protesters tried to help one another and offered each other eye drops.
One wounded woman, who others said had been hit by one of the canisters, was carried away by two protesters.
One protester, 35-year-old Jerry Smith, said a tear gas canister had rolled to his feet and sprayed him in the face.
Several Rounds Of Tear Gas
Police forcibly dispersed the crowd with tear gas again about 9:30 p.m., when protesters began throwing objects at them. As protesters scattered, police closed off a main thoroughfare.
Minutes later, protesters regrouped and began throwing objects again. Police responded by firing more tear gas canisters.
Acting Police Chief Howard Jordan told reporters at a late night news conference that authorities had no other choice, saying the protesters were throwing rocks and bottles at officers.”We had to deploy gas to stop the crowd,” he said, according to a KCBS report.
You can watch the video below, and see what you think. Did police really have to use tear gas?
The number of protesters diminished with each round of gas. About 200 remained late Tuesday, protecting themselves from the noxious fumes with bandanas and scarves wrapped around their faces.
On Wednesday morning, authorities removed about 170 demonstrators who had been staying in the area overnight. City officials said 97 people were arrested in the morning raid.
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk