Violent Clashes with Police Mar Occupy Oakland Move-In Day

Written by Eric Louie. Posted in News, Politics

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Published on January 29, 2012 with 7 Comments

During a day marred by several intense and violent clashes between riot gear-clad law enforcement officers and Occupy protesters, the Oakland Police Department unleashed a volley of CS tear gas canisters, bean bag bullets and flash bang grenades at protesters outside the Oakland Museum yesterday in response to bottles and rocks being thrown at the officers. Over three hundred protesters were arrested by day’s end. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Eric Louie, special to Media Workers Guild and Fog City Journal

January 29, 2012

Khalid Shakur was riding his bike past police Saturday at the start of Occupy Oakland’s “move-in day.” Protesters were planning to establish an indoor residency for the movement in a vacant building. But the Oakland authorities were having none of it.

Words were exchanged. Shakur was told bikes weren’t being allowed into the plaza outside City Hall. Officers pulled Shakur off the bike and briefly took him into custody.

Protesters still assembling for the noon start time jumped into action, aiming their cell phone cameras to record the police action, shouting condemnations as more officers arrived in vans. Although the police soon left, the early confrontation set the tone for what would become a day and night of intense and violent clashes between law enforcement and Occupy.

Before it was over early Sunday, demonstrators had broken into City Hall, pelted police with rocks, and were twice turned back from establishing a new headquarters. Police responded with tear gas, flash grenades, bean bag bullets and, at times, excessive force.  By days end, more than 300 people were arrested.  Several injuries were reported, involving both police and protesters.

With the wind blowing in the protesters’ favor, a phalanx of gas-masked OPD officers became engulfed by their own CS gas.

After being pelted by rocks and bottles by protesters, OPD officers responded with bean bag bullets, flash bang grenades and swung their truncheons at protesters.

A protester calls for help to assist a fallen protester outside the Oakland Museum.

The first clash between protesters and police occurred on the periphery of Kaiser Convention Center. After protesters tore down a chain-linked fence, dispersal announcements warned that chemical agents could be used to disperse the protesters.

Protesters kick into high gear to flee charging OPD officers seemingly prepared to inflict physical injury.

A protester falls to the ground during a surprise attack from Oakland Police Department at the rear of the protest.

Shakur, 43, was freed shortly after he was detained – he said he had some pending charges against him from previous Occupy melees, but there were no warrants for his arrest. He warned the crowd to be cautious. He noted that police had photos and names of people suspected of criminal activity.

Khalid Shakur spoke of his brief detainment and warned protesters law enforcement has identified targets for arrest.

Occupy speakers told of victories since the movement started last September, including a tentative agreement for union longshore workers in Longview, Wash., in their dispute with a giant grain shipper.

A sound truck carrying dancing demonstrators gave the scene a festive atmosphere. But speakers anticipating there would be arrests also gave out phone numbers and advice for legal help. Some in the crowd carried plastic garbage cans cut into shields.

A small group of young protesters of the anarchist persuasion came prepared do to battle with law enforcement. 

As the protest began, several hundred people marched through downtown. Some pushed wagons loaded with canned food, bread and cooking equipment to be used for the move-in.

Organizers kept the building targeted for takeover a secret, so the exact route was a mystery to most of the marchers. After winding through Laney College, the crowd ended up at the vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, where police were ready.

As many as two thousand, mostly peaceful, protesters approached Laney College in an effort to detour around police blockades.

A smaller group of protesters edged up to confront police using makeshift corrugated aluminum barricades and rubber shields.

A little levity entered the scene at Laney College when a protester carrying an orange armchair throughout the protest implored the Oakland Police Department to allow the protesters to pass.

From 12th Street, which separated the building from Lake Merritt, protesters fought to gain ground, throwing rocks and other items over a chain-link fence. Police responded with tear gas as a few with rifles kept watch. Police later said they also fired bean bags.

Warnings to disperse sounded over a loudspeaker. “You must leave this area immediately,” a police sergeant announced. “Chemical agents may be used if necessary.”

Demonstrators withdrew, returning to the Ogawa Plaza, but more confrontations developed when the protesters got too close to police lines. At the plaza demonstrators rested on the stone steps. They ate soup and cold pizza provided by the volunteer kitchen.

“This is historic,” said “Diamond” Dave Whitaker, 74, a San Francisco resident who said he was a veteran of causes dating back a half-century.

As the sun set, the protesters went on the move again, marching through downtown. Police followed. Along the way someone opened up a fire hydrant. At The Uptown apartments, a complex of highrises, officers circled the few hundred protesters. A police helicopter hovered with a spotlight. Police ordered protesters to leave, but exits appeared to be blocked. When police fired more tear gas, the demonstrators tore down a chain-link fence, and the march continued.

When protesters found themselves with no escape, OPD officers charged and seized their barricades.

Those protesters manning the barricades were subjected to baton swipes from OPD truncheons.

CS gas and flash bang grenades were used to disperse and confuse protesters.

As many as three-hundred protesters found themselves trapped when OPD officers formed two lines at the intersections of 23rd and 24th streets on Broadway Avenue. Realizing their options were slim, protesters attempted to seek protection at the YMCA before police with batons raised, gas masks affixed, face shields down, moved in with force and physically corralled the protesters.

Police attacked those protesters attempting to flee.

One man was observed with blood spilling from his mouth.

A protester lay prostrate following a surge by police to arrest protesters outside and inside the YMCA on Broadway Ave.

The few protesters that managed to enter the YMCA before security guards locked the doors were also arrested.

At least 100 protesters were arrested and processed outside the YMCA on Broadway Ave.

A few protesters made it inside the YMCA.  More than 100 people were arrested on charges including breaking into a building and unlawful assembly, said police spokesman Jeff Thomason.

“This is not a vacant building,” he said as those arrested were being processed on the street outside. However, some of the crowd gathered said police cornered them and they were not able to leave.

Their numbers were dwindling, but a couple hundred protesters pressed on, and decided to hold their weekly Saturday night rally against police, marching to police headquarters where officers were waiting.

Demonstrators and police clashed again when a people got into City Hall, where they vandalized the building and burned an American flag while news photographers recorded the scene.

Eventually police, including reinforcements called in from Marin and San Francisco counties, closed the streets near the plaza and the crowd dispersed.

Protest organizers said they would continue Sunday with a planned festival including music and speakers. It was to have been staged in an occupied building. Instead, it would be happening outside, organizers said.

More Photos

A peaceful Occupy message of Equity, Justice and Love, won the day.

“Financial equity for all. We are the 99 percent.”

“Tax the big dogs.”

A protester carried an orange armchair on his head throughout the protest.

Young people are angry at the prospect of a grim economic future and fewer opportunities.

Eric Louie

Eric Louie

Eric Louie is a reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared in Greenbiz.com, Contra Costa Times, The Record ( (Stockton), Philippine News, Pacific News Service and the Sunset Beacon.

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7 Comments

Comments for Violent Clashes with Police Mar Occupy Oakland Move-In Day are now closed.

  1. Hope Johnson

    Amen, Richmondman, amen!!!!!

  2. 30-40% of the eligible citizens vote. The rest get what they deserve. Think Globally, act locally – run Pelosi out of town.

  3. Mayor Jean Quan estimates the cost to Oakland related to the Occupy protests since October at about $5 million at a time when the city is facing a budget deficit. But consider that Oakland’s budget deficit is indirectly related to the subprime housing crisis, predatory lending practices, lack of government regulation, and billions in government bailouts to those largely responsible for the crisis. This corporate greed led to vast layoffs of workers and home foreclosures. The $5 million cost to Oakland pales against the human cost suffered by unemployed workers, many of whom lost their homes to foreclosure, and the cost to taxpayers for these bailouts. While I decry the violence and destruction of property in the latest Occupy Oakland demonstration, until government and Wall Street listen and act, we need the Occupy Movement to continue its protest against corporate greed symbolized by Wall Street and the vast income disparity in the U.S. Hopefully, Occupy Oakland has not lost the true spirit and determination of the original Occupy Wall Street.

  4. Great photos and reporting.

    Maybe Occupy has gone as far as it can with marginalized activists.

    I have a friend that wanted to compare Occupy to the anti-war movement in the 1960’s. It took over 3 years to get the majority of Americans educated to oppose American involvement in that war. At the time of its mid-September 2011 origin only a few short months ago, only 40% of the American electorate were aware that their country was run by an oligarchic kleptocracy. Now over 95% of the electorate are aware. Could that translate into votes?

  5. Great photos, Luke; I just posted “Tax the Big Dogs” to my FB page.

    I was at KPFA producing a little story on the Mirkarimi distraction from everything else, including the investigations of election fraud by the Ed Lee for Mayor and Ed Lee for Mayor independent expenditure campaigns, which DA George Gascón says are ongoing, even though Gascón is dependent on Lee’s budget.

    When I got word there about the tear gas, I went to tell the weekend news anchor, who then got someone there on the line. Then I ran into Diamond Dave on BART on the way home, but I’m still trying to make sense of this.

    Sympathetic as I am to anyone who wants to burn an American flag, and supportive as I am of the right to do so, I wish they hadn’t because I’d like to see this become a broadbased movement and I don’t think there are that many Americans ready for that. One of my favorite Occupy reports was about Casper, Wyoming, where protestors gathered in front of the courthouse with American flags saying “This is un-American,” and one local Democratic Party leader told a news broadcaster that “there’s no bigger fraud than a corporation pretending to be a person.”

    I also agree with Marc that this seems largely like a staged, publicized confrontation with the police, to dramatize the inherent violence of the system, but doesn’t otherwise accomplish much.

    Why not drive up in a couple of trucks, get out wearing construction workers’ garb, with tool belts and tools, and quietly, take the fencr around this abandoned building down, then quietly move the furniture, etcetera, in? The police would most likely assume that that was some kind of legitimate activity, until the Occupiers had taken the building, and might not even notice it for awhile.

    The diversionary tactic Marc suggests sounds more strategic as well.

  6. So OO knows that the OPD is ruthless and brutal, so OO publicly advertises their intent to take a public building and expect, what, the OPD to lay rose petals in their paths and welcome them?

    If the anarchist black bloc wants to use their preferred tactics, one might think that those tactics could be deployed creatively, strategically, elsewhere and in cooperation with nonviolent occupiers to create a diversion which would attract police enforcement and leave any target building undefended by the cops.

    Advertising law breaking only invites the cops. Security by secrecy is difficult with likely infiltration, but given the abundance of “seasoned activists” in Oakland, you might think that they could rustle up 100 or so trusted folks to take the building without advertising it to law enforcement and then call in support once the move in was a fait acompli.

    But we’re seeing activist-centered actions that put activists ahead of the people both on the reformist and radical fringes of occupy. The anarchists want a direct confrontation with the cops, a confrontation that they know they cannot win but does a good job of highlighting the violence inherent in the system. That is also perceived as a level of confrontation that discomforts many likely Occupy supporters. The nonprofiteers and labor liberals want to be martyrs for the cause and the same people put themselves up as arrestees to bask in the glow of martyrdom. That only highlights disempowerment and does not magnetize folks to join up.

    Occupy succeeds when the people are ahead of the activists. In two recent cases, cop confrontation in Oakland and the imposition of the failed local housing agenda on occupy on J20, the activists put their narrow unpopular agenda at the forefront.

    In neither instance do we see any efforts to grow the occupation to the extent where enough power can be raised to drive more significant and far reaching demands.

    Activists of the world, it is not all about you and meeting your needs for validation in public. We need more normal people in occupy to swarm over this short-sighted self indulgence by those whose view is siloed with activist goggles. Neither J20 nor J28 are moving us in that direction.

    When similar mirror image tactics are tried by the right wing, Rachel Maddow dismisses them as Fringy McFringersons, which is how most people viewed J20 and J28.

  7. Kat Anderson

    I am concerned. Authentic “Occupy” demonstrations are meant to be non-violent. There seemed to be an angry element in Saturday’s activities. Something to ponder…..