Occupy Oakland: Several banks close doors as protesters march
Several banks closed their doors Wednesday as hundreds of anti-Wall Street protesters took to the streets in Oakland in what police said was so far a mostly peaceful demonstration.
Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan estimated the crowd at about 1,000, though organizers believed the numbers were about double that.
All remained peaceful and there were no arrests, Jordan said, but there are "concerns about a small number of people in the crowd who are seeking a confrontation with police." He called on peaceful demonstrators to point out any troublemakers.
For now, however, police presence is "minimal." Two officers arrived at a Wells Fargo Bank branch as protesters won the day and employees filed out. But they concluded there was no vandalism and allowed the protest to continue.
Chase and Union Bank branches a block away also were closed, and hula hoopers along with a unicyclist frolicked in front of the Chase door as an accordionist played.
Marches throughout downtown were popping up spontaneously as crowds moved toward bank branches and then returned to the civic center plaza.
Michelle Nicol, 28, chanted with her 6-year-old daughter, Paige, on her shoulders.
"We got sold out!" she hollered to a tiny-voiced response from Paige of "banks got bailed out."
Nicol said she was a welfare mom who had gotten three associate degrees at an Oakland community college and now attends San Francisco State.
"My biggest fear is I'm going to graduate and there aren't going to be jobs for me," she said. Gesturing to Paige, she remarked, "She says we're out here to help the poor but I told her, honey, we are the poor."
At an earlier news briefing with the police chief, Mayor Jean Quan thanked protesters for "keeping things peaceful" and tried to encourage Oakland residents to patronize local businesses.
On the plaza, however, many merchants had shuttered. Saigon Restaurant, whose manager had complained about plummeting business earlier in the week, was dark, plastered with signs declaring support for Occupy Oakland.
Clemente Pena, who goes by DJ Twelvz, had managed to borrow the restaurant's electricity for a "youth stage," playing tunes for the hundreds gathered in the square eating and chatting.
An Oakland group, Asian Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy and Awareness, enjoyed the vibe as dozens of teens who skipped school turned out to speak up and attend a teach-in.
"We wanted to make sure there was a safe space for youth to participate," said lead organizer Armael Malinis, 32.
-- Lee Romney in Oakland
Photo: Michelle Nicol, 28, with her 6-year-old daughter, Paige, on her shoulders:
Credit: Lee Romney / Los Angeles Times