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Oakland chief defends officers involved in clash

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Oakland’s police chief on Friday defended officers involved in a clash with anti-Wall Street protesters, saying they used what they believed to be the least amount of force possible to protect themselves.

Interim Chief Howard Jordan said he took full responsibility for the actions of his officers, whom protesters accused of injuring an Iraq war veteran during the clash Tuesday night. Scott Olsen, 24, remained hospitalized in fair condition with a fractured skull after police fired an object that struck him in the head, fellow veterans said.

Jordan’s comments came amid continued protests in large cities across California, including in Oakland where many re-established camp outside city hall despite police attempts at dismantling it. In San Francisco, hundreds of demonstrators maintained a tent city in a public plaza and in San Diego, 51 people were arrested as police there cleared them from a park.

Left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore addressed hundreds of anti-Wall Street protesters in front of Oakland’s City Hall, saying the Occupy movement has changed the national discussion.

“When was the last time in the last few weeks you heard them talking about the debt ceiling?” said Moore, the director of the documentary films “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Bowling for Columbine.”

Jordan said he and city staff had reached out to the protesters. He also promised that allegations of misconduct and excessive use of force would be thoroughly scrutinized, saying in a statement that he was “concerned about the injuries to protesters and officers alike; the decision to use any level of force is never taken lightly, and certainly was not in this situation.”

Oakland officers did not suffer any serious injuries during the clash Tuesday, just “bangs and bruises from bottles and other objects that were thrown at and on them,” said Cynthia Perkins, an assistant to the director at the police department.

The object that injured Olsen has yet to be definitively established, as well as the person responsible for the injury. His plight has become a rallying cry at Occupy protests around the world.

Farther south, police in San Diego descended early Friday on the encampment that housed demonstrators at the Civic Center Plaza and Children’s Park for three weeks. Dozens of officers and San Diego County sheriff’s deputies raided the site around 2:30 a.m., declared an unlawful assembly and removed tents, canopies, tables and other furniture.

San Diego protester Chuck Stemke, a 32-year-old mechanical designer, said he awoke to a loud noise and looked out of his tent to see hundreds of police marching toward him in the darkness. He said demonstrators lost costly tents a few weeks ago in a similar raid.

“It was very intimidating,” he said. “There was a huge show of force.”

Authorities arrested 51 people who faced charges including illegal lodging, illegal drug use, unlawful assembly and other charges. Twenty-four people were arrested on charges of blocking officers from performing their duties, police said.

Police said there had been complaints about unsanitary conditions created by human and animal feces, urination, drug use and littering, as well as damage to city property. They said demonstrators may return — without tents and other belongings — after the cleanup is finished.

San Diego police Chief William Lansdowne said negotiations with demonstrators had broken down and officers received no cooperation.

In the Central Valley, officials planned to evict a group of about 30 demonstrators from next to a Fresno County courthouse. The group agreed to officials’ request not to pitch tents at the site during their 20-day stay, and the county had so far been lenient with the encampment, said protest spokesman Ruben Verdugo.

But officials on Friday gave notice that the protesters’ permit would expire midnight Monday, and that demonstrators faced jail time and $500 fines if they remained. County resources manager John Thompson said officials have ignored violations of the permit, including a requirement that no more than 20 people assemble and that they not stay overnight.

Maria Torres stopped by the encampment to lend moral support. The 86-year-old said she worked with Cesar Chavez as an organizer of the farmworkers’ movement in the 1960s.

“I’m too old now to do much, but I want to be a part of it,” she said in Spanish.

Thompson said protesters were welcome to file a request for a new permit.

Peaceful protests continued in San Francisco, where a handful of police officers patrolled the area across from the historic Ferry Building as 200 to 300 demonstrators gathered. More protesters have arrived at that camp since police in Oakland dismantled the encampment across the bay, said protester Jean Pierre.

“With each march and raid, the camp seems to grow a little more,” said Pierre, 26, of Eugene, Ore.

Mayor Ed Lee wants to avoid the type of police confrontations that happened in Oakland and has been meeting with members of the San Francisco camp to address concerns about public health and safety, said mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey.

The mayor does not oppose protesters demonstrating on public space at any hour, but wants to end the overnight camping, she said.

“We can’t have the camp for too many more days because it’s not healthy,” Falvey said.

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Watson reported from San Diego. Contributing to this report were Associated press reporters Tracie Cone in Fresno; Terence Chea and Jason Dearen in San Francisco; and Garance Burke in Oakland.

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