By TERRY COLLINS | Associated Press – Jan. 29, 2012
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Dozens of police maintained a late-night guard
around City Hall following daylong protests that resulted in 300 arrests.
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.
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 building as a social center and
political hub and threatened to try to shut down the port, occupy the
airport and take over City Hall.
An exasperated Mayor Jean Quan, who faced heavy criticism for the police
action last fall, called on the Occupy movement to "stop using Oakland as
"People in the community and people in the Occupy movement have to stop
making excuses for this behavior," Quan said.
Protesters clashed with police throughout the day, at times throwing
rocks, bottles and other objects at officers. And police responded by
deploying smoke, tear gas and bean bag rounds, City Administrator Deanna
Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said about 300 arrests were made.
"These demonstrators stated their intention was to provoke officers and
engage in illegal activity and that's exactly what has occurred today,"
The group assembled outside City Hall late Saturday morning and marched
through the streets, disrupting traffic as they threatened to take over
the vacant Henry Kaiser Convention Center.
The protesters walked to the vacant 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
The number of demonstrators swelled as the day wore on, with afternoon
estimates ranging from about 1,000 to 2,000 people.
A majority of the arrests came after police took scores of protesters into
custody as they marched through the city's downtown, with some entering a
YMCA building, said Sgt. Jeff Thomason, a police spokesman.
Quan said that at one point, many protesters forced their way into City
Hall, where they burned flags, broke an electrical box and damaged several
art structures, including a recycled art exhibit created by children.
She blamed the destruction on a small "very radical, violent" splinter
group within Occupy Oakland.
"This is not a situation where we had a 1,000 peaceful people and a few
violent people. If you look at what's happening today in terms of
destructing property, throwing at and charging the police, it's almost
like they are begging for attention and hoping that the police will make
Dozens of officers surrounded City Hall, while others swept the inside of
the building looking for protesters who had broken into the building, then
ran out of the building with American flags before officers arrived.
The protest group issued an email criticizing police, saying "Occupy
Oakland's building occupation, an act of constitutionally protected civil
disobedience was disrupted by a brutal police response today."
Michael Davis, 32, who is originally from Ohio and was in the Occupy
movement in Cincinnati, said Saturday was a very hectic day that
originally started off calm but escalated when police began using "flash
bangs, tear gas, smoke grenades and bean bags."
"What could've been handled differently is the way the Oakland police came
at us," Davis said. "We were peaceful."
City leaders joined Quan in criticizing the protesters.
"City Hall is closed for the weekend. There is no excuse for behavior
we've witnessed this evening," City Council President Larry Reid said
during a news briefing Saturday.
Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, echoed Reid's sentiments and said
that what was going on amounts to "domestic terrorism."
The national Occupy Wall Street movement, which denounces corporate excess
and economic inequality, began in New York City in the fall but has been
largely dormant lately.
Oakland, New York and Los Angeles were among the cities with the largest
and most vocal Occupy protests early on. The demonstrations ebbed after
those cities used force to move out hundreds of demonstrators who had set
up tent cities.
In Oakland, the police department received heavy criticism for using force
to break up earlier protests. Quan was among the critics, but on Saturday,
she seemed to have changed her tune.
"Our officers have been very measured," Quan said. "Were there some
mistakes made? There may be. I would say the Oakland police and our
allies, so far a small percentage of mistakes. "But quite frankly, a
majority of protesters who were charging the police were clearly not being
Earlier this month, a court-appointed monitor submitted a report to a
federal judge that included "serious concerns" about the department's
handling of the Occupy protests.
Jordan said late Saturday that he was in "close contact" with the federal
monitor during the protests.
Quan added, "If the demonstrators think that because we are working more
closely with the monitor now that we won't do what we have to do to uphold
the law and try keep people safe in this city, they're wrong."
Oakland assesses City Hall damage after Occupy break-in
Beck Diefenbach / AP
Occupy Oakland protestors burn an American flag found inside Oakland City
Hall on Saturday.
By NBC News, msnbc.com
Story updated 12:30 p.m. ET:
Oakland officials on Sunday were inspecting damage inside City Hall that
was caused by about 50 Occupy protesters who broke in and smashed glass
display cases, spray-painted graffiti, and burned the U.S. and California
The break-in on Saturday was the culmination of a day of clashes between
protesters and police. At least 300 people were arrested on charges
ranging from vandalism and failure to disperse.
At least three officers and one protester were injured.
Mayor Jean Quan said Occupy protesters have caused an estimated $2 million
in damages from vandalism since October. She said the cost to the city
related to the Occupy Oakland protests is pegged at about $5 million.
The scene around City Hall was mostly quiet Sunday morning. It was unclear
whether protesters would mount another large-scale demonstration later in
Story updated 6:00 a.m. ET:
A U.S. flag was burned by a group of protestors inside City Hall,
according to City Council President Larry Reid. City officials also said
three police officers and one protester were injured during Saturday's
Story updated 3:15 a.m. ET:
Sgt. Christopher Bolton of the Oakland Police Department told msnbc.com
that the number arrested was likely between 200 and 300. "We are still
processing the arrests," he said. He was speaking after the release of a
statement on the Oakland City website that put the number of arrests at
200. "That figure is probably on the low side and we don't have a
confirmed total yet," said. Sgt Bolton. In the statement, released in a
PDF file format, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said: "Once again, a violent
splinter group of the Occupy Movement is engaging in violent actions
against Oakland. The Bay Area Occupy Movement has got to stop using
Oakland as their playground." The statement also said there were reports
of damage to exhibits inside City Hall during the protest.
Story published 1:30 a.m.:
Police arrested about 300 people Saturday as Occupy Oakland protesters
were thwarted trying to take over a vacant convention center and a YMCA
but later broke into City Hall, where they burned a flag taken from
Police used tear gas and "flash" grenades in the afternoon against 2,000
protesters who tried to tear down fences around the vacant Henry Kaiser
Convention Center, where they hoped to establish a new camp. Police said
some demonstrators started throwing objects at officers. There were at
least 19 arrests in the afternoon.
After 6 p.m. (9 p.m. ET), police in riot gear declared a group of
protesters gathered near the YMCA under mass arrest for failing to
disperse, according to local media reports and livestreams. Police said
about 100 demonstrators were arrested at the YMCA.
Several protesters at the YMCA appeared to be put hard to the ground as
police moved in and at least one protester had blood on his face.
Protesters chanted, "Let us disperse," but instead were taken one by one
for police processing.
Some protesters claimed they were trying to flee police by running through
the YMCA rather than take over the building.
Later in the evening, about 100 police officers surrounded City Hall while
others swept the inside of the building.
Police arrived after protesters had broken into City Hall, stole an
American flag from the council chamber and set it ablaze, the Oakland
Tribune reported. Officers stomped out the fire.
Earlier, protesters met at Frank Ogawa Plaza around noon and marched
toward the convention center in hopes of making it their new meeting place
and social center, NBCBayArea.com reported.
Read NBCBayArea.com coverage of the protest
Oakland officials said about 250 people were in the group when the protest
started but the crowd grew to about 2,000.
Earlier during the rally one of the organizers, Shake Anderson, said, "We
are here to protect each other and to be civil disobedient. ... We're
doing it to change the world, not just today but every day."
Stephen Lam / Reuters
Police officers arrest an Occupy Oakland demonstrator during a clash
Saturday in Oakland, Calif., where officers fired tear gas at hundreds of
protesters who tried to take over a shuttered convention center.
The protesters were walking through Laney College around 2:30 p.m. Some
people were wearing bandanas over their mouths and others were holding
signs saying, "We are the 99%." A marching band dressed in pink and black
tutus and neon pick tights also was in the crowd.
Officer Jeff Thomason said police started making arrests when some in the
crowd started throwing objects at them during the afternoon rally. Three
officers were injured, police said, but did not elaborate.
@OaklandPoliceCA tweeted around 3 p.m., "Area of Oakland Museum and Kaiser
Center severely impacted. Persons cutting and tearing fences for entry.
Bottles and objects thrown at OPD."
Once they reached the center, organizers planned to kick off a two-day
"Oakland Rise-up Festival" to celebrate the establishment of the
movement's new space.
Occupy Oakland spokesman Leo Ritz-Bar said the action would signal "a new
direction for the Occupy movement: putting vacant buildings at the service
of the community."
Stephen Lam / Reuters
Occupy Oakland demonstrators shield themselves from an explosion Saturday
during a confrontation with the police near the Oakland Museum of
California in Oakland, Calif.
He also warned that protesters could retaliate against any repressive
police action by blocking the Oakland International Airport, occupying
City Hall or shutting down the Port of Oakland.
City officials said that while they are "committed to facilitating
peaceful forms of expression and free speech, police would be prepared to
arrest those who break the law.
"The city of Oakland will not be bullied by threats of violence or illegal
activity," city administrator Deanna Santana said in a statement issued
This article includes reporting from NBCBayArea.com, The Associated Press
and msnbc.com's Miranda Leitsinger and Alastair Jamieson.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
By TERRY COLLINS | Associated Press – Jan. 29, 2012