Tear gas and mayhem at Occupy Oakland: help or hindrance to the cause?
Media zeroed in on Occupy Oakland protesters and their clash with police. Such confrontations could bolster the Occupy movement, some say. But they may also be a sign the protests are winding down.
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"If law enforcement engaged in a preemptive strike and started arresting people, I believe it would lead to calamitous results, and the people protesting so far are peaceful," Albany District Attorney David Soares told the Albany Times-Union on Sunday, backing the police department's decision.Skip to next paragraph
The story in Oakland is more complicated. The city has seen violent protests during the past several years tied to alleged incidents of policy brutality, which eroded trust between the police and parts of the local populace. In fact, protesters dubbed the park outside City Hall that police broke up Tuesday morning "Oscar Grant Plaza," after a man who was fatally shot while resisting arrest by Bay Area Rapid Transit police in 2009.
In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg made "a statement" by stepping up police presence during a Times Square protest two weeks ago, says Fordham's Ms. Gautney. But the situation is different in New York, the epicenter of the protests, where many residents are sympathetic to the rights of the protesters to squat, she says.
The increased police presence is giving protesters in Oakland and Chicago a new point to rail against: over-policing. In Atlanta, former City Councilor Derrick Boazman, who was among the 57 arrested Wednesday, called Police Chief George Turner a "Bull Connor" character, in reference to the civil-rights-era police commissioner who ordered police to crack heads in Birmingham, Ala.
Though many protesters have vowed to continue their "occupations," they are being tested by mayors' loss of patience and more robust police oversight.
"It's a very delicate balance when you're in a situation like this," says T.V. Reed, an expert on social movements at Washington State University, in Pullman. "You can be dismissed if you're negotating with authorities, because then you're not protesting anymore. But I've been impressed so far by the discipline and intelligence of protesters in coming up with viable solutions to each problem they face. It's a vast movement that has many differnet ways to deal with issues that come up, and to keep the movement going."
Certainly, protesters are not giving up. Zuccotti Park in New York, gathering place of the original Occupy Wall Street protesters, remains a protest site, with organizers working with city officials to clean the area and keep the park open to others. In Denver, protesters remain undeterred, even as the season's first major snowstorm approaches.
And the anticonsumerist Adbusters magazine, a Canadian publication credited with sparking the Occupy protests, this week released a specific goal that it hopes protesters will rally around: A "Robin Hood tax" to "slow down some of that $1.3 trillion easy money that's sloshing around the global casino each day," as the magazine's editors wrote.
In Oakland, however, authorities have gained the upper hand – at least for now. They arrested nearly 100 people, mostly during a predawn raid on the tent city. What began as about 1,000 demonstrators clashing with police on Tuesday night dwindled with each tear-gas attack, with the protest petering out at about midnight with a few hundred protesters, some of them riding bikes, still taunting police.
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