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Occupy Oakland damage assessed after protesters break into City Hall

Officials assessed damage to City Hall caused by Occupy Oakland protesters while leaders of the movement claimed Sunday that police acted illegally in arresting hundreds of demonstrators.

By Terry CollinsAssociated Press / January 29, 2012

Oakland, Calif., Mayor Jean Quan surveys damage to City Hall on Sunday following an Occupy Oakland protest Saturday. After a confrontation with police, demonstrators gained entrance to City Hall where they burned an American flag, broke glass and toppled a model of City Hall.

Noah Berger/AP

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Oakland, California

Officials assessed damage to City Hall caused by Occupy Oakland protesters while leaders of the movement claimed Sunday that police acted illegally in arresting hundreds of demonstrators and could face a lawsuit.

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Mayor Jean Quan was among those inspecting damage caused after dozens of people broke into City Hall on Saturday, smashing glass display cases, spray-painting graffiti, and burning an American flag.

That break-in culminated a day of clashes between protesters and police. Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said nearly 400 people were arrested on charges ranging from failure to disperse to vandalism. At least three officers and one protester were injured.

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In a news release Sunday, the Occupy Oakland Media Committee criticized the police conduct, saying that most of the arrests were made illegally because police failed to allow protesters to disperse.

"Contrary to their own policy, the OPD gave no option of leaving or instruction on how to depart. These arrests are completely illegal, and this will probably result in another class action lawsuit against the OPD, who have already cost Oakland $58 million in lawsuits over the past 10 years," the release said.

The scene around City Hall was mostly quiet Sunday morning, and it was unclear whether protesters would mount another large-scale demonstration.

Dozens of officers remained present inside and outside City Hall after maintaining guard overnight. Occupy Oakland demonstrators broke into the historic building and burned a U.S. flag, as officers earlier fired tear gas to disperse people throwing rocks and tearing down fencing at a convention center.

"They were never able to occupy a building outside of City Hall," Jordan said Sunday. "We suspect they will try to go to the convention center again. They will get not get in"

Saturday's protests – the most turbulent since Oakland police forcefully dismantled an Occupy encampment in November – came just days after the group said it planned to use a vacant convention center building as a social center and political hub and threatened to try to shut down the Port of Oakland for a third time, occupy the airport and take over City Hall.

Quan, who faced heavy criticism for the police action last fall, on Saturday called on the Occupy movement to "stop using Oakland as its playground."

"People in the community and people in the Occupy movement have to stop making excuses for this behavior," Quan said.

On Sunday, Quan said she is tired of the protesters' repeated actions.

"I'm mostly frustrated because it appears that most of them constantly come from outside of Oakland," Quan said. "I think a lot of the young people who come to these demonstrations think they're being revolutionary when they're really hurting the people they claim that they are representing."

Saturday's events began late Saturday morning, when a group assembled outside City Hall and marched through the streets, disrupting traffic as they threatened to take over the vacant Henry Kaiser Convention Center.

The protesters then walked to the convention center, where some started tearing down perimeter fencing and "destroying construction equipment" shortly before 3 p.m., police said.

Police said they issued a dispersal order and used smoke and tear gas after some protesters pelted them with bottles, rocks, burning flares and other objects.

The number of demonstrators swelled as the day wore on, with afternoon estimates ranging from about 1,000 to 2,000 people.

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