Monday, February 6, 2012
'Occupy' protesters march through Oakland streets
Dozens of Occupy Oakland demonstrators burned an American flag and marched through the streets Saturday night, a week after police fired tear gas to quell violent demonstrations and hundreds were arrested following a mass break-in at City Hall.
About 70 Occupy demonstrators began marching around 9 p.m. from City Hall en route to police headquarters, but a line of officers quickly blocked their path. Protesters veered off and began a winding, five-mile walk through city streets that ended nearly two hours later at their starting point.
Following close behind was a caravan of police cars and vans, but there were no clashes between the groups or any other signs of violence.
Saturday's action was aimed at protesting what they claim was abuse at the hands of officers during last Saturday's protest that peaked with rock and bottle throwing from protesters and volleys of tear gas in response from the police.
Following the march, the demonstrators congregated around City Hall as the protest wound down.
"It went well," said Chris Moreland, who used a bull horn to help lead the march. "As long as we don't destroy anything, the police don't care."
"It's a win-win situation for everybody," Moreland, 23, told The Associated Press. "We get our message across and they (police) get paid."
Police said that they had a strategy in place in the event the protest got out of hand, warning that vandalism and violence will not be tolerated.
"Although social media sites had indicated that individuals or groups planned a, `militant, radical march' and asked peaceful bystanders to not interfere with criminal tactics, the march this evening overall was peaceful," police spokeswoman Johnna A. Watson said.
Television stations said that at one point some protesters threw a bottle of urine at a KTVU truck and a wooden board at a KPIX truck.
Occupy Oakland said it planned a day of action Monday. Another march on police headquarters is likely.
Demonstrators have been protesting outside police headquarters on Saturday nights for weeks, but most of those protests were tame with only minor vandalism reported and a handful of arrest.
The protest took a violent turn a week ago. Protesters say they were trying to take over a vacant city-owned convention center. Scores were later arrested in and around a YMCA after police said protesters had ignored orders to disperse. Occupiers argue that they were never warned.
"There was no prior announcements whatsoever until after they rushed in and scared us into the YMCA," said Shon Kae, an Occupy Oakland spokesman. "The notice was that we were under arrest for failure to disperse. That we heard loud and clear."
The protest culminated in a break-in of City Hall that left glass cases smashed, graffiti spray-painted on the walls, and finally, an American flag burning. More than 400 people were arrested and at least three officers and one protester were injured. A judge later issued stay away orders on 12 protesters.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, herself a former civil rights activist, said that the protesters had used a crowbar to pry the main entrance of City Hall open. Protesters say the doors were unlocked.
The mayor said she has grown tired of the protesters using the city as its "playground."