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39 arrested in Oakland May Day protests

May 3, 2012 |  6:05 pm

Oakland city officials said 39 people were arrested in Tuesday's largely peaceful May Day protests, which were marred by “a small group of people who came to Oakland intent on provoking violent confrontations with the police and vandalizing the city.”

As in previous demonstrations linked to the Occupy movement, most participants focused on a message of addressing economic inequality. In addition to enthusiasts of that movement, labor leaders and immigrant rights organizations also organized pickets and marches in Oakland on Tuesday, bringing the total number of demonstrators to about 5,000, a city spokeswoman said.

But a contingent of protesters wearing masks, carrying shields, and throwing paintballs and bottles also turned out.

“May Day in Oakland has traditionally been dedicated to supporting immigrants’ rights with broad community support for large marches to City Hall,” Mayor Jean Quan said in a statement Wednesday. “Once again, a small group intent on confronting the police and doing damage to public buildings and businesses in our city disrupted yesterday’s largely peaceful events.”

Quan credited the Oakland Police Department, which came under a federal monitor's fire for its previous Occupy response, for “their evolving strategies which balance the rights of peaceful demonstrators with enforcement against violence.”

Chief Howard Jordan last week announced that he would roll out a new approach to crowd control that would utilize small groups of officers to quickly isolate and arrest troublemakers. The department appeared to put that into action Tuesday.

The 39 arrests included 27 on suspicion of "willfully delaying or obstructing law enforcement officers in the performance of their duties," seven on suspicion of “failing to disperse an area declared an unlawful assembly,” and others on suspicion of robbery, battery, violating a restraining order, vandalism, and possession of an incendiary device.

The city relied on about 150 officers from other departments to assist with demonstrations, which began in the morning and continued past 8:30 p.m., when the assembly was declared unlawful after police said part of the crowd began throwing bottles and other objects at officers attempting to make an arrest.

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-- Lee Romney in Oakland

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