Oakland May Day protests: At least 9 arrested, tear gas fired
Oakland police said Tuesday afternoon that they had arrested at least nine May Day demonstrators on suspicion of interfering with officers, failing to disperse and violating stay-away orders issued by a judge in the wake of January protests related to the Occupy movement.
More than 400 demonstrators converged on Frank Ogawa Plaza near City Hall by midday Tuesday to listen to speakers and call for the end to economic injustice at a gathering dominated by sympathizers of the Occupy movement.
Though the event was largely peaceful, police made four arrests after 12 p.m., when an unruly crowd threw objects and struck officers with corrugated metal shields as they attempted to detain a protester.
Police confirmed that they used "small amounts of gas" three times during the melee "to disperse the specific small groups of people who were committing the violent acts." One officer was doused in yellow paint, kicked in the ribs and hit with a metal paint canister, he said.
About 2 p.m. demonstrators again sought to interfere as officers moved to arrest isolated protesters, police said. The gathering was declared an illegal assembly at 2:40 p.m. and at least five more arrests followed, officials said.
A local CBS news van had its windshield smashed and tires slashed, and a police van was also vandalized, officials said.
Police Chief Howard Jordan said at an afternoon news briefing that there had been other "minor acts of vandalism and graffiti" in downtown Oakland, including at a Bank of America branch near Lake Merritt that boarded up and closed for the day after demonstrators converged there.
More than 5,000 people were expected to gather in the plaza beginning at 6 p.m., and officers from other departments that provide Oakland with mutual aid were standing by to assist, a spokeswoman said.
Of the hundreds who turned up for the day’s events, the vast majority were peaceful. Shaina Burnette, 31, brought her 2-year-old son, Gaian, whose stroller was adorned with signs that delivered a message on his behalf: "Dear Corporate State, Can you please spare some clean air, water and food for my generation? Maybe a couple schools? Animal species? Trees? PLEASE…"
"I want to see a world where there is a whole different value system, where we actually put people before profits," Burnette said as she fed her son a strawberry. "The commons are disappearing like this," she said, referring to shared environmental resources and snapping her fingers. "It’s appalling and it’s depressing and it’s scary."
Occupy "isn’t perfect," Burnette conceded, noting that vandalism by a few can dominate the message. But she said that’s all the more reason for people to raise their voices.
"I would beg people who care about the future: It’s a movement, and you have to show up."
-- Lee Romney in Oakland
Photo: Oakland police officers push back Occupy protesters attempting to block a street. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images