Since the worldwide Occupy movement caught fire in late 2011, its participants have sought a way to peacefully coexist with city officials while still taking a stand for what they feel are social and economic injustices on both the local and national levels.
In November 2011, the Occupy Oakland community, after surviving a barrage of police violence sanctioned by Mayor Jean Quan, wanted to find a new home that would both provide offstreet shelter for its participants, as well as a central location to conduct its educational and social outreach.
Not surprisingly the Occupy Oakland General Assembly voted to do something radical: reclaim and occupy the Oakland Municipal Auditorium building, which has been vacant for over 6 years, and repurpose it as a community center.
Yesterday, Oakland occupiers attempted to put that plan into action. Several thousand protesters participated in a spirited march to the long-closed civic auditorium by Lake Merritt which was met by riot police who derailed the first move-in attempt with batons, smoke and tear gas.
While Occupy Oakland coverage of the event claims that police officers continued the violent behaviors that left Iraq veteran and protester Scott Olsen near death at a demonstration in October, 2011, Mayor Jean Quan says that they were provoked by protesters who allegedly pelted them with bottles, rocks, burning flares and other objects. Occupy Oakland protesters once again came to the aid of several individuals who were seriously injured by the officer’s actions.
Several reports claim that, during Occupy Oakland’s subsequent march through the downtown area, protesters broke into the YMCA and City Hall, where they burned flags, broke an electrical box and damaged several art structures, including a recycled art exhibit created by children.
Protesters claim that the actions of the Oakland Police Department violated First Amendment rights as well as its own policies by attacking, kettling and arresting the marchers. An account on the Occupy Oakland website states “officers…were swinging batons at protesters in a violation of OPD crowd control policy, which allows for pushing of jabbing with batons, but not the swinging of them,” and “they kettled a march in progress, and arrested hundreds for refusing to disperse. Contrary to their own policy, the OPD gave no option of leaving or instruction on how to depart. These arrests are completely illegal, and this will probably result in another class action lawsuit against the OPD who have already cost Oakland $58 million in lawsuits over the past 10 years.”
Oakland Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said about 300 arrests were made. Occupy Oakland is not deterred by the violence and arrests of yesterday’s action, and is holding a Rise Up festival today at Oscar Grant Plaza.
Image credit: Occupy Oakland