For a first person narrative by somebody on the ground in Oakland, read this article by Mike Godwin in reason.com:
If you've been following the mainstream media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests, odds are that you've heard about events at Occupy Oakland. What you can't tell from the news clips is how the situation has played out for those of us who live here. I can't speak for everyone, but I do know that my reaction, both to the protestors and to the violent police interventions against them, is hardly an uncommon one.Go read the full article.
The vibe where I was standing was tense. Occasionally an individual shouted at the arrayed police, “This is America! What are you doing here?” Or, “I can't believe you're doing this! We love you guys but what you're doing is wrong!” I didn't think it was a great idea to shout at the (silent but intent) array of police—it wasn't likely they were going to suddenly relent, and I knew they had been wearing heavy riot gear and carrying weapons (including astonishingly large batons) for six or more hours. My instinct was that it was not particularly safe to shout at tired men and women with weapons, no matter how righteous one's outrage is.
One guy passing me on the way downtown warned about tear gas. I spotted New York Times reporter Malia Wollan talking into her mobile—as she walked past I heard her describing the apparent effects of the gas on individuals exposed to it. Her account is available here.
Of the people headed toward me, I first thought a disproportionate number were bicyclists—only a few minutes later did I realize, embarrassingly, that there were other reasons for wearing a bicycle helmet that night. The tension in the crowd was palpably building so I decided it was time to head home. Keeping my distance turned out to have been wise, because this is what I missed getting caught up in:
I was also standing 50-100 feet south from where a police officer appears to have thrown a flash grenade into a crowd of people gathered to help 24-year-old Scott Olsen, who suffered massive head injuries after allegedly being struck by a tear gas canister.
I confess that it breaks my heart to watch this clip. If I had seen someone collapsed in the street, I'd have tried to help that person too. These people were apparently punished for their impulse to help.
I don’t know how to interpret everything I saw, and I can’t state with any authority what Occupy Oakland or any of the other protests ultimately mean. But I do know this: The millions of dollars California just spent on this crackdown did nothing to dispel or discourage the protestors. In fact, the police intervention has echoed around the world. Occupy Wall Street committed to sending $20,000 to Occupy Oakland and protestors as far away as Tahrir Square in Egypt have expressed their solidarity with the Oakland protestors.
History tends to happen when you least expect it, and my new neighbors have taken their first steps into its pages.
If you want to see the sympathy protest in Tahrir Square Egypt for the Occupy Oakland violence, here is a post on BoingBoing with pictures.
Here is political commentary in Wired magazine on the fallout from the police violence at Occupy Oakland:
But the police forces’ violent tactics worked only temporarily, and have, for the moment at least, handed the Occupy movement a moral and political victory so big that not even Occupy protestors seem to recognize it.
The nation, and even much of the world, seemed to recoil in shock from the images coming out of Oakland Tuesday night, where police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse unarmed protestors, who built a camp in the city as part of the nationwide protest against an unfair political and economic system.
Critically wounded Marine veteran Scott Olsen became a rallying point for Occupy, following widely seen footage of protestors trying to carry him to safety in the midst of a tear gas assault. There were other pictures and videos: streets littered with rubber bullets, people in wheelchairs trapped in the tear gas, and bloodied faces and bruised bodies of unarmed protestors.
On Wednesday, OccupyOakland’s fortunes reversed.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan announced that people could reoccupy Frank Ogawa plaza, renamed Oscar Grant plaza by the occupiers in honor of a black Oakland man shot to death by transit police in 2009. When people arrived for the General Assembly, the occupation’s standard open meeting, the grassy area of the plaza was fenced off. But through the course of the evening, and not without violent conflict among the occupiers, the fences came down.
People fought each other over the fences, pulling at each other, some linking arms to protect the fence, and screaming, all while the GA went on in the distance. Despite the fears of those attempting to protect the fence, no police moved in after it went down. The GA proceeded through the evening undisturbed by anything but news choppers overhead and a turn-out too big for the sound system to cover.
But word came in that an attack was imminent on OccupySF across the bay, and a large contingent moved to get on the BART transit to join San Francisco’s Occupiers in Justin Herman Plaza. But when they arrived at the station they found it closed; BART wasn’t letting the occupation on in Oakland, or letting people off at Embarcadero, the station closest to OccupySF.
The roused crowd took to the streets, marching down Broadway towards the police station. They met no resistance. The police stayed a block away on all sides, and melted back in front of the path of the crowd, directing traffic away from the protestor-filled streets of Downtown Oakland. Many protestors were looking for a confrontation with police, but found none — staying peaceful and well behaved, if boisterous and peripatetic. The only property damage I observed were a couple incidents of graffiti-tagging, of which only one was definitely attributable to the OccupyOakland march. There were no broken windows or even overturned trash bins, and police stayed largely out of sight for the evening.
During the slow, tweeted protestor pursuit of police, OccupySF drilled for a police raid, practicing locking arms around their camp and removing vital gear from the site. As the hours wore on, many tired occupiers became paranoid, and every bus or van that went by startled people and sent them into conspiratorial speculations. Some occupiers went around writing the National Lawyer’s guild phone number on the arms of occupiers who didn’t already have a lawyer.
Five members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, several running for mayor, arrived and used the people’s mic to address the occupiers. They stayed put for hours, and many occupiers credited them for preventing the police raid.
On Thursday, the SFPD stretched credulity by telling ABC Channel 7 that the whole thing was a training exercise, resulting in a sarcastic local news report regarding the whole event. At the same time, OccupySF posted a picture of a notice given to businesses around the occupation warning of “…increased activity by the SFPD in the immediate vicinity of One Market Plaza starting around this evening’s commute.”
In Oakland the occupation was returning Thursday, growing from one tent in the reclaimed area Wednesday night to eight tents. OccupyOakland is rebuilding against the background of a campaign to recall Mayor Quan, calls for OPD to be disciplined, solidarity marches around the country and the world, and the New York City GA’s consensus to devote 100 sleeping bags and $20,000 for legal and medical expenses to OccupyOakland.
Sheamus Collins, a bartender from Dublin, showed off his rubber bullet wound.
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No one seemed aware of how crushing their political victory in the last 24 hours had really been.