OAKLAND (AP) — The city that became the national epicenter for the Occupy movement on Thursday played reluctant host to a one-year anniversary rally and march marking the day when protesters were removed from an encampment on a City Hall lawn, sparking the first of many clashes with police.
Rally organizers have vowed to take back the plaza and set up tents again, while encouraging others to arm themselves with unspecified “tools of violence.” Some Occupy Oakland members publicly denounced those tactics and urged the group to get back to its main issues.
The demonstration remained largely peaceful as four police vans and about 15 officers clad in riot gear watched on as about 200 demonstrators marched through downtown Oakland the Oakland Tribune reported. One person was arrested at about 9 p.m. for throwing a rock at an officer. The rock struck the officer in the chest, but he was unharmed.
The protesters chanted anti-police slogans and several demonstrators wore dark trench coats and black bandanas over their faces. They finally stopped marching and settled in front of City Hall at about 10 p.m.
“This is not what the masses within the movement want. We have to make our message clearer,” said Shake Anderson, a member of Occupy Oakland’s Media Collective. “We need to get back to the core of fighting against economic inequality and social injustice.”
Meanwhile, an anonymous faction posted fliers promising to attack anybody using the rally to cause destruction through vandalism and graffiti.
Dozens of people were arrested during a protest on Oct. 25, 2011, just hours after hundreds of demonstrators were removed from the City Hall lawn during a pre-dawn raid. Police fired tear gas canisters and beanbag projectiles, and some demonstrators threw glass and other objects.
Critics and residents complained about the police response that night, most notably after one protester, Iraqi War veteran Scott Olsen, was struck by a police beanbag projectile. He suffered a fractured skull that resulted in a brain injury and speech problems.
Earlier this month, city officials acknowledged that an Oakland police officer fired a beanbag at Olsen, and another officer fired a gas canister at the crowd while some were attending to Olsen as he lay bleeding on the street.
In June, an independent study reported that police were ill-equipped to handle that protest due to inadequate staffing, poor planning and training.
Police Chief Howard Jordan recommended that two officers be fired and another 42 officers disciplined or reprimanded for misconduct in that protest and others that have led to more than 700 arrests for a variety of crimes including felony assault and misdemeanor vandalism.
That included more than 400 protesters arrested in a January event that culminated in a break-in of City Hall that left glass cases smashed, graffiti spray-painted on the walls, and an American flag burning.
Mayor Jean Quan, who said earlier this year that she’d grown tired of protesters using Oakland as its “playground,” reiterated Thursday that she will not allow a reoccupation of the City Hall plaza.
“We are prepared for anything. We’re not necessarily expecting anything, but with Occupy, you never can tell,” Quan said. “We’ve been pretty clear: No violence, no camping and no vandalism. If they want to have a peaceful demonstration, we’re ready to accommodate them, but we’re also ready to enforce the rules.”
“We’re not here for violence,” said Occupy member Anthony Owens, who camped out in the plaza last year. “This is a celebration, and celebrations are generally peaceful.”
Sgt. Chris Bolton said officers have undergone extensive training in dealing with protests since last year. He said that was evident during a May 1 protest that resulted in nearly 40 arrests and nine complaints against the police.
None of those complaints has led to a finding of misconduct.
“Our officers’ actions will be dictated by the actions of the crowd,” Bolton said.
By Terry Collins