Occupy Oakland: Police raid encampment, arrest dozens
Tuesday's pre-dawn sweep of the Occupy Oakland encampment, which resulted in about 80 arrests, came after the diverse community of protesters refused to allow police and fire officials -- as well as at least two ambulance crews -- access to the area to provide services, city officials said.
Oakland had issued repeated warnings to the campers over the last week, citing an increase in public urination and defecation, rats and fire hazards from cooking. The greatest concern, however, stemmed from violence.
When the camp took shape Oct. 10, things were relatively harmonious: City officials, including Mayor Jean Quan, asserted their support for the protesters’ free-speech rights and the movement's values. A children's "village" was set up, along with a kitchen and "school" in which to conduct workshops.
Homeless individuals and families who had been living in the area were embraced by the makeshift community and became a part of it.
On Oct. 17, the first sexual assault was reported. But camp leaders declined to allow police and fire officials to conduct patrols.
By the following day, city officials said in a statement, "We began to receive numerous complaints of threatening, intimidating behavior…. public health and safety requirements were being ignored."
On Friday, Oakland demanded that protesters cease overnight camping. After a brief warning before Tuesday’s raid, about 30 of the 350 people present left voluntarily, officials said.
Those who helped build the encampment were distressed by the decision to tear it down, noting that tensions were being resolved internally and had led to uncommonly frank conversations about class, race, and gender during repeated public assemblies and committee meetings.
"There were internal problems, but we were working it out," said Kerie Campbell, 46, who co-founded the children's village and had set up a similar tent filled with donated toys, clothes and snacks at an ancillary encampment near Lake Merritt that also was raided Tuesday.
The children's tent at the main plaza was ripped apart by police, said Campbell, who has spent her days at the encampment but slept at home with her children.
"It's a blatant violation of our 1st Amendment rights," Campbell said of the raid as she sat with a sign calling for Quan’s recall. "This is going to make the movement pull together. It was a bad mistake. We'll go somewhere else. There are plenty of parks in Oakland."
Indeed, the Occupy Oakland movement put out a call for participants to meet near downtown this afternoon to plan future steps.
Over the weekend, Green Party members had helped organize a group of protesters who hoped to sit down to discuss their concerns with Quan. Among those named to the committee was Chino Marti, 28, who has spent his days at the camp and says he has "completely lost faith" in the mayor.
"The city says it's supportive of free speech and of us taking ownership of public spaces, but they obviously have no intention of supporting us if they're going to come down on us with cops," Marti said.
Quan was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. But she issued a statement after the raid, noting that although "many Oaklanders support the goals of the national Occupy Wall Street movement ... 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 plaza, she said, will "continue to be open as a free speech area from 6 am to 10 pm as soon as practical."
-- Lee Romney in Oakland
Photo: Police in riot gear clear protesters from the plaza in front of Oakland's City Hall. Credit: Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group