Sunday, February 5, 2012

2012-02-05 "Police hold smaller Occupy Oakland protest in check" by Kevin Fagan, Vivian Ho, Will Kane, Michael Cabanatuan from "San Francisco Chronicle"
A week after a violent protest by Occupy demonstrators resulted in more than 400 arrests, calm reigned Saturday night as a small crowd of about 100 marchers was turned away from the Oakland Police Department, then paraded around downtown and North Oakland.
No violence was reported by late Saturday, and at 10:35 p.m., ebullient protesters called that a victory as they streamed back into Frank Ogawa Plaza, the Occupy protest's epicenter in Oakland.
 "It was an amazing action," said Sarah Carlson, 29, of San Francisco. "Even people who have different ideas tactically about how to approach these things were disciplined."
 The march left the plaza in front of Oakland City Hall just before 9 p.m. and headed down Broadway toward the Police Department headquarters on Seventh Street. Near the rear of the march, Zachary Running Wolf, a well-known East Bay protester, burned an American flag and left it in the middle of Broadway.
Gary Easley, 33, of Oakland, picked up the charred flag, and put it around his neck.
 "I felt bad," he said.
As the marchers neared Eighth Street - chanting "Whose streets? Our streets!" - they encountered a line of about 50 Oakland police officers in riot gear, and headed east on Eighth Street into Chinatown.
"They're too small," Jacques Rivera, who works at Revolution Books, said of the crowd of protesters. "They're being cautious and strategic. They're not going to take a small march and get everyone arrested."
 The police - some on foot, some in vans and black sport-utility vehicles - followed the marchers as they weaved through downtown Oakland, then headed north on West Street. Their ultimate destination was unclear.
 As they marched, the protesters chanted: "We are nonviolent," "All cops are bastards," "We are peaceful, the pigs are not." Two helicopters followed the crowd as it worked its way through usually quiet North Oakland residential neighborhoods.
 The passing parade of protesters followed by police drew curious residents out of their houses and onto the sidewalks.
 "I heard the chanting outside the house and came outside to see what was going on," said Steve, 27, who would not give his last name. "I'm a strong supporter and a righteous believer (in Occupy). But it's kind of like, 'What are they accomplishing with this now?' "
Police and Oakland officials had worried that the march would turn into a repeat of last Saturday when a peaceful afternoon protest swirled into chaos and violence later in the day. More than 400 were arrested as they tried to seize the long-vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, entered the Oakland YMCA and broke into Oakland City Hall, where they vandalized the ground floor.
The nasty conflict prompted a week of sometimes angry debate over the tactics of Occupy protesters and police alike. Despite calls for a commitment to nonviolence from city officials and some inside the Occupy movement - and the issuance of stay-away orders against 11 protesters - Occupy leaders called another in their series of what they termed "F- the Police" protests.
 Statements posted on the Occupy Oakland website before Saturday's march urged those opposed to violence or vandalism to either steer clear or avoid interfering with those willing to engage in mayhem.
 "If you identify as peaceful and are likely to interfere with the actions of your fellow protesters in any way (including telling them to stop performing a particular action, grappling, assaulting or holding them for arrest), you may not want to attend this march," one statement read. "It is a militant action. It attracts anti-capitalists, anti-fascists and other comrades of a revolutionary bent. It is not a march intended for people who are not fully comfortable with diversity of tactics."
In Frank Ogawa Plaza before the march, many in the crowd said the "diversity of tactics" included nonviolent civil disobedience. A man over the loudspeaker told the gathering crowd: "This is a nonviolent thing. It's going to be nonviolent like every other night."
After the march, Melvin Kelley, 19, of Oakland, said the online messages about violence and vandalism had been misconstrued.
"We're not going to tell them to do it," he said. "We're not going to tell them not to do it. We don't want them to set fires or anything, but we don't want to be starting confrontation within our group."

Occupy Oakland held a rally and march from Frank Ogawa Plaza to OPD Headquarters in downtown Oakland, CA to protest alleged police brutality against Occupiers. Saturday Feb. 4th, 2012.
Photo: Michael Short / Special to the Chronicle


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