Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Occupy Oakland: Protesters rally around wounded veteran

Occupy Oakland protesters held a late night march after a protesting Iraq war veteran was left in critical condition following clash with police. Oakland's police force is coming under fire for improper use of force against the Occupy Oakland movement

By Terry CollinsAssociated Press / October 27, 2011

Oakland police search tents in Frank Ogawa Plaza as they disperse Occupy Oakland protesters in Oakland, Calif. City officials had originally been supportive of the protesters, but the city, fearing violence between protesters and police, later warned the protesters that they were breaking the law and could not stay in the encampment overnight.

Jane Tyska/AP

Enlarge

Oakland, Calif.

Veering around police barricades, Occupy Oakland protesters held a late-night march through Oakland streets, a day after one of their number — an Iraq War veteran — was left in critical condition with a fractured skull following a clash with police.

Skip to next paragraph

The show of force in Oakland along with SWAT arrests in Atlanta have sent chills among some anti-Wall Street demonstrators, and protesters elsewhere rallied in support around the injured veteran, Scott Olsen.

Another showdown between police and protesters in Oakland appeared to be averted late Wednesday night as several hundred filed out of a plaza declared off-limits for overnight use and marched through nearby streets.

An AP photographer on the scene said police erected barricades to prevent the marchers from reaching a freeway, sending the group down side streets en masse.

Small contingents of officers could be seen following behind but there were no signs of any confrontations or arrests. The march tapered off after about an hour, with most of the protesters apparently dispersing.

At least one tent was back up Thursday morning, along with a handful of people. Police two days earlier cleared the plaza, which had grown to dozens of tents and raised health and safety concerns among city officials.

Olsen was marching with Oakland demonstrators Tuesday when he suffered a cracked skull in the chaos between officers and protesters. The 24-year-old Marine remained in critical condition, said a spokesman for Highland Hospital in Oakland.

It was not clear exactly what type of object hit the veteran or who might have thrown it, though the group Iraq Veterans Against the War said officers lobbed it.

Police Chief Howard Jordan said at a news conference that the events leading up to Olsen's injury would be investigated as vigorously as a fatal police shooting.

"It's unfortunate it happened. I wish that it didn't happen. Our goal, obviously, isn't to cause injury to anyone," the chief said.

In a show of solidarity with their West Coast counterparts, several hundred members of Occupy Wall Street marched past the padlocked gates surrounding New York's City Hall Wednesday night chanting "March with Oakland." While numerous police officers stood watch, the marchers circled City Hall and then broke up into smaller groups as they returned to Zuccotti Park. Police said early Thursday morning that about 10 people had been arrested.

While demonstrators in other cities have built a working relationship with police and city leaders, they wondered on Wednesday how long the good spirit would last and whether they could be next.

Will they have to face riot gear-clad officers and tear gas that their counterparts in Oakland faced Tuesday? Or will they be handcuffed and hauled away in the middle of the night like protesters in Atlanta?

"Yes, we're afraid. Is this the night they're going to sneak in?" said activist William Buster of Occupy Wall Street, where the movement began last month to protest what they see as corporate greed.

"Is this the night they might use unreasonable force?" he asked.

The message from officials in cities where other encampments have sprung up was simple: We'll keep working with you. Just respect your neighbors and keep the camps clean and safe.

Business owners and residents have complained in recent weeks about assaults, drunken fights and sanitation problems. Officials are trying to balance their rights and uphold the law while honoring protesters' free speech rights.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Wednesday that the Occupy LA encampment outside City Hall "cannot continue indefinitely."

Villaraigosa told the Los Angeles Times that he respects the protesters right to peacefully assemble and express their views, but they must respect city laws and regulations.

San Francisco police have already cleared two encampments. Most recently, police estimated at least five protesters were arrested and several others injured in a clash Tuesday evening.

Some cities, such as Providence, R.I., are moving ahead with plans to evict activists. But from Tampa, Fla., to Boston, police and city leaders say they will continue to try to work with protesters to address problems in the camps.

In Oakland, officials initially supported the protests, with Mayor Jean Quan saying that sometimes "democracy is messy."