Oakland raid is latest in Occupy crackdowns
Monday, November 14, 2011
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Police decked in riot gear and armed with tear gas cleared out Oakland’s anti-Wall Street encampment early Monday, the latest law enforcement crackdown amid complaints around the country of health and safety hazards at protest camps.
The raid at the Occupy Oakland camp, one of the largest and most active sites in the movement, came a day after police in Portland, Ore., arrested more than 50 people while shutting down its camp amid complaints of drug use and sanitation issues.
Police in Burlington, Vt., also evicted protesters after a man fatally shot himself last week inside a tent.
Police staged a previous raid on the Oakland encampment on Oct. 25, but Mayor Jean Quan allowed protesters to re-establish their tent city. On Monday, however, Quan said officials could no longer ignore the problems posed by the camp.
“We came to this point because Occupy Oakland, I think, began to take a different path than the original movement,” Quan said. “The encampment became a place where we had repeated violence and last week a murder. We had to bring the camp to an end before more people got hurt.”
Demands increased for Oakland protesters to pack up after a man was shot and killed Thursday near the encampment at the City Hall plaza.
Protesters claimed there was no connection between the shooting and the camp. But police identified the slain man as Kayode Ola Foster, 25, of Oakland, saying his family confirmed he had been staying at the plaza.
Witnesses also told police that one of two suspects in the shooting had also been a frequent resident at the plaza.
Monday’s raid came as no surprise to protesters after the city issued its fourth order to abandon the camp. About 300 officers from the Oakland Police Department and seven other law enforcement agencies moved in around 5:30 a.m., arresting 32 people and tearing down about 150 tents.
Another man was arrested later in the morning for trying to break through police barricades and spitting on officers.
Protesters vowed to regroup and return.
“I don’t see how they’re going to disperse us,” said Ohad Meyer, 30, of Oakland. “There are thousands of people who are going to come back.”
Officials declared the operation a success, saying all arrests were peaceful and there were no reported injuries to protesters or officers. Police said those taken into custody likely will face charges of unlawful assembly and lodging.
“This had been a very difficult situation,” Quan said. “I’d tried to do what was right for the city and keep the most people safe at every step.”
In Vermont, protesters agreed to remove their tents from a Burlington park on Sunday in a resolution that Police Chief Michael Schirling described as “amicable.”
Police and city officials initially agreed to let the protesters stay in the park after a 24-hour protest began but changed their minds after Joshua Pfenning shot himself. Authorities said the tents had to be removed because police could not see what was going on inside.
Officials in Oakland, Burlington and other cities said protesters would be allowed to gather again at the site of their former camps as long as they didn’t spend the night.
Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan said a strong police presence would remain at the plaza around the clock to make sure protesters didn’t roll out tents and sleeping bags again.