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War Pigs: Police in Riot Gear Rough Up Oakland Protesters

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By HVnews on October 26, 2011

UPDATE II: All seemingly quiet on the western coast on Wednesday night — Oakland police pulled down barricades near City Hall and reduced their presence in the area. Hundreds of protesters returned to Frank Ogawa Plaza, and blame-shifting Mayor Jean Quan said, “If it remains a peaceful demonstration, we will maintain a minimum police presence.” It was never anything but peaceful, Mayor Quan.

UPDATE: #OccupyOakland protesters returned to set up new camps on Tuesday night, but eventually the crowd dwindled from hundreds to dozens as Oakland police officers in riot gear continued to volley tear gas cans and flash grenades into the crowd over the course of three tension-filled hours.

In an incredible scene, a dirty stinkin’ hippie former Navy sailor and member of Iraq Veterans Against War named Joshua Shepherd stood up to the police officers on the line, holding a flag in one hand and a copy of the U.S. Constitution in the other. @northoaklandnow captured the moment:

In an equally incredible but infinitely more disturbing scene from Tuesday night, here’s what that tear-gassing and flash-banging looked like. Remember, these are unarmed protesters:

Then there’s Veterans for Peace member Scott Olsen, who was wounded by a rubber bullet to the face during the intense police action on Tuesday night in Oakland. Isn’t there something remarkably wrong about a veteran making it home to U.S. soil and being shot by American police?

Scott Olsen is currently listed in critical condition, according to the Guardian: “I’ve just spoken to Keith Shannon, roommate of Scott Olsen, the Iraq veteran who is in hospital after apparently having been hit in the head by a police projectile. Shannon said doctors told him Olsen has a ‘skull fracture and swelling of the brain.’ A neurosurgeon will assess Olsen later today to determine whether he needs surgery, Shannon said. Olsen, 24, was in 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, before leaving the military last year. He had been opposed to the Iraq war even before his first tour to the country, Shannon said. Shannon and Olsen met in November or December 2005, and share an apartment in Daly City, south of San Francisco.”

Early Tuesday morning, the Oakland Police Department, under orders from the city, went to the Occupy Oakland encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza to oust the protesters.

Things quickly turned ugly as the Oakland police, decked in riot gear, used rubber bullets, flash grenades and smoke bombs to disperse the protesters. They arrested more than 100 people, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. At the moment, it doesn’t appear anyone has been significantly injured in the fray.

But watch these videos. Is this not what a modified war zone would look like?

In a statement, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said, “Many Oaklanders support the goals of the national Occupy Wall Street movement. We maintained daily communication with the protesters in Oakland. However, over the last week it was apparent that neither the demonstrators nor the city could maintain safe or sanitary conditions or control the ongoing vandalism.”

The city and police decided to use what appears to be excessive force to drive the protesters away — not exactly the ideal tactic to maintain safe conditions.

According to the San Jose Mercury liveblog, the raid began around 4:40 a.m. local time, when an officer used a public-address system to warn protesters that they would be making arrests if they did not leave the plaza. At 4:45 a.m., hundreds of officers from at least 10 law enforcement agencies began to surround the camp.

By 5:30 a.m. the tent city was leveled and the protesters had cleared the area. Police then moved on to a second camp at Snow Park and closed that down, reportedly with little violence.

Here, just watch some amateur recorded video of the night for the chaos. It resembles the grainy, frantic footage we’ve come to associate with a war zone.

Protesters began chanting, “You are the 99 percent!” to police moving in on the camp. About six minutes later you can see the police utilizing gas weapons against the protesters.

As the camp is raided, the citizen journalist (who kind of outs himself, possibly, as a member of Anonymous by referencing his Guy Fawkes mask) in the video says, “Sorry guys I can’t be any closer this stuff is going to make me sick,” referring to tear gas.

Further, the Chronicle notes:

City officials asked downtown businesses to consider allowing their employees to “delay their arrival” this morning to allow work crews to clean up the plaza. City employees were asked to come in later as well.

Officials initially waived city laws that ban camping and allowed the occupation of the plaza. But since Thursday, the city has issued of series of orders for protesters to vacate the area, citing concerns about fire hazards, sanitation issues, graffiti, drug use and violence.

Officials said protesters had plugged power cords into city utility poles and had denied access to emergency responders who needed to get into the plaza. The city was also alarmed by the activists’ decision to try to police themselves with a volunteer security team.

Protesters had vowed to resist eviction and protect the encampment that had grown to about 150 tents. Pathways made of wooden pallets connected a kitchen, a garden, a medical station and an area for children to play.

For more than an hour before the police moved in, several hundred people appeared ready to defend the camp, placing Dumpsters, boards, pallets and even metal police-style barricades around the plaza.

After the mass arrests, protesters vowed to return.

“People are going to keep coming back. What are they going to do, send cops in every night and waste taxpayer dollars?” asked Gabe Meyers. “The cops are the 99 percent, but they’re doing the work of the 1 percent. Wall Street is proud of them every time they clear out an encampment.”

It will be interesting to see if this perceived police brutality and excessive force galvanizes the protesters in Oakland and the surrounding areas like San Francisco. JP Dobrin has an incredible photo gallery of the night. It’s worth taking ten seconds to cruise through his photos.

Here’s a few videos of the events of early Tuesday morning:

We’ll update with more as we learn it …


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