Why I Got Tear Gassed at Occupy Oakland


Written by Annie Liebman: an eyewitness report

If someone had asked me why I was at the Occupy Oakland movement on Tuesday night after work I wouldn’t have had an “ideal” answer. I know there are hundreds of reasons why I could have been there. Honestly I went with a feeling — a feeling that the Occupy Movement was “right” and a feeling that it is unconstitutional to prohibit the free speech of the people. I don’t know if this Occupy movement will fix anything. I don’t know if it will result in any real change. But I knew that something was wrong when I arrived at Frank Ogawa Plaza to see hoards of policemen blocking what was supposedly “free space.”

“What are you protecting?” protesters were chanting at policemen. And really, what were they protecting? A small grassy knoll in the city center? The policemen looked robotic — standing in a line, motionless and stoic, looking like creatures with their gas masks on and batons in hand. I looked at the policemen and then I looked at the “other side” — the vibrant, diverse community of people. I saw such a beautiful community of people there and, at the moment, I was incredibly proud to be from Oakland.

At one moment, I was looking admiringly upon this community. At the next I was confused and watching this same community running in fear. The police threw canisters of tear gas, firing up the streets and producing sounds like bombs. I ran, crying, and when I stopped and realized what happened, I got angry.

I’m not one of those loud, motivating protesters. I don’t yell at police officers or get visiby angry. I am observant and cautious. But how can it possibly be considered “okay” to throw tear gas at peaceful people? How can these actions from our government be considered moral?

The policemen weren’t protecting the people. They weren’t concerned about any of the protesters’ well-being. They were using gas to keep us out of an area that is supposed to be public space. They would rather us not protest and keep our mouths shut. They wanted us to disperse — to figure out our problems as individuals and not as a community.

As a stranger handed me a bottle of water  to flush my eyes, I imagined a community made by the people, instead of these “robots” in charge. Although I never camped at Occupy Oakland, I can only imagine the love and support of that community. If, within two weeks, that community was able to generate adequate food, free child care and a garden, I wonder what could happen if we were given more time.

This government simply works for 1% of the population. The other 99% deserve to be heard.


Related Stories:

Iraq Veteran Has Fractured Skull After Oakland Protest (Video)

City Spends Millions to Attack Occupy Oakland (Photos)

Breaking: Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets At Occupy Oakland


Photo from ekai via flickr


-- -6 years ago


Lynn C.
Lynn C6 years ago

I'm glad you were there and I'm glad it made you angry! Anger is better than apathy!

Gloria H.
Gloria H6 years ago

Amazing that the police will do anything to evict peaceful protesters to provide "free space" for joggers, dog walkers, and mums with strollers, retired bench sitters, landscape artists, and assorted members of the public. I saw people with their pets (dog walkers?), people in sports attire (joggers?), elders (pigeon feeders?) and artfully drawn signs at the protests. What if all the protesters were evicted and jailed..who would be left to visit the parks? The 1% that look down on the scene from penthouses in the skyscrapers?

Redgie H.
Redgie H6 years ago

(1 of 3)

The OWS movement is the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and we ignore or marginalize it at our own extreme peril. While these protests may seem an unruly nuisance and attract a few who advocate mild violence, if we fail to heed their warning and change our present course, the next wave will almost certainly be extremely violent, bloody, and deadly.

Capitalism is inherently unstable and violent, and no amount of rhetoric is going to change that fact. In a perfect world where everybody was equally concerned with his neighbor's welfare, and everybody traded for equal value, it would be a great system. That is not the case. Capitalism exploits the weakest and most defenseless for the benefit of the most ruthless. We must either have the sword of implied violence in the form of strict and enforced regulations, or we allow the prolonged violation of the weak, and the inevitable violent explosions when their numbers reach critical mass. In the US we have "evolved" from the exploitation of slaves, sweat shops, and migrant workers to exploitation of workers and weaker economies on a global scale. Now that greed is coming back to bite us, as the faceless, soulless, and largely unaccountable corporations we spawned have also evolved, and now exploit our economy and resources as mercilessly as any other.

Redgie H.
Redgie H6 years ago

(2 of 3)

On the political side, we still have a representative government, but it now answers to the voice of the corporations rather than the voice of the people. They have successfully argued that because they represent the economic interests of the people and they are publicly held by the people, they are in fact the voice of the people. Most of the mechanisms of democratic government are still in place, they've simply stopped responding to the will of the people. On the economic side, the corporations control much of the country's accumulated wealth and most of its resources. For the most part, they ARE the means of production. Of the wealth not "publicly owned" by the corporations, around 85% is owned by 1%-2% of the poplulation. This same group also "owns" a large percentage of voting stock in the corporations. Problem 1 solved, we have (sort of) identified the enemy and their position. Mission: Occupy Wall Street.

Redgie H.
Redgie H6 years ago

(3 of 3)

Currently, 15%-25% of the US population is economically disenfranchised, perhaps more. By this, I mean they don't earn enough to make ends meet, and little hope for the immediate future. Their circumstance decides where they will spend whatever money they have. Many rely on assistance from family, friends, community organizations, and government. Some have always been there, conditioned to apathy by generations of poverty. Some have seen their middle class jobs, homes, and savings suddenly disappear. Some are watching their savings erode as their lifestyles decay. Together, they represent a lot of potential rage. And their numbers are growing. The government is proposing a solution, a reduction of resources to this group, while sacrificing more of our economy on the altars of corporate profit. Perhaps its time to invest in guns and armor plating.

Nancy L.
Nancy L6 years ago

Thanks for posting.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

lis Gunn
lis Gunn6 years ago

Authorities all over the world are reacting - out of fear. The peaceful "revolution" is turning very nasty because those in power want to hang on to what they have.
Wall Street with its obscene wealth was bailed out using tax payers money and now it should be time to repay. America, allegedly the greatest nation in the world is ignoring its sick, its old (and young and its poor. Its political system is stuffed and if people vote at all, they vote for one of two parties (who make the rules as they go along). Best wishes to all those who are protesting at the injustices of corrupt practices and my greatest respect to you all.

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

Oakland has been hurt for a large numbers of years. Police and the people of Oakland have been clashing for a long time. I was hoping it wouldn't get to what happened. The poor there have had it hard for to long. I hope that all of this will be stopped and sorted out. No one has all of the 'blame'. And no one is all 'right'. To have any peaceful demonstrations in that area is amazing to start with, as racial profiling is rampant there.