Early Tuesday morning before dawn, Oakland police and other law enforcement closed down the encampment of hundreds of people sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street movement against economic inequality, now gaining momentum in cities across the country.
That evening, more than a thousand protesters came back just after 6 p.m. to take back the area near City Hall.
Police in riot gear were there to meet them at 14th Street and Broadway and after the demonstrators removed barriers between them, the police called it an “unlawful assembly” and ordered the crowd to disperse or face arrest.
When the crowd backed off but did not disperse, police did not immediately move in but instead replaced the barriers.
The protesters started marching down Broadway and it looked like that might be the end of it until sometime after 7 p.m. when they came marching back and set up there own barriers, creating a no-man’s-land area between them that was occupied mostly by photographers and videographers.
After repeating the order to disperse did not sway the crowd (in fact, quite the opposite, as they became more defiant) police fired tear gas and flash grenades into the middle of the intersection. Some in the crowd picked up the canisters and threw them back at the police before dispersing.
The demonstrators then marched around the downtown area until about 8:20 p.m., when they arrived back at the same intersection and once more refused to leave, shouting at police “the whole world is watching!” and “we are the 99 percent!” Others clapped their hands and chanted “Let’s go Oakland!”
At 9:27 p.m. police once again fired tear gas and flash grenades into the crowd filling the intersection and many did begin to disperse and go home, however, some returned soon after and began taunting the police once more.
Update: The San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday that Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan defended the tactics of his department by saying that OPD is “committed to allowing free speech but the first amendment doesn’t allow for violence or endangering the public property.”
On Wednesday, protesters displayed rubber bullets and beanbags that they said were fired at them the night before. Jordan said his department used the beanbags but not the rubber bullets and that other agencies there may have used the rubber bullets.
Six or seven people were injured, Jordan said. The most seriously wounded was Scott Olsen, 24, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The antiwar group said Olsen suffered a skull fracture when he was hit by a “blunt object” and that he joined the US Marines in 2006, served two tours in Iraq and was discharged in 2010.
Jordan said the incident was under investigation.