The eviction that Occupy Wall Street protesters feared nearly two weeks ago never took place, but many of their fellow Occupiers in other cities haven’t been so fortunate. Occupy Oakland began a protest yesterday afternoon to retake the public area (which some have unofficially renamed Oscar Grant Plaza) from which police had removed them from in the predawn hours.
The police reaction was such that they were not successful. Tear gas had a lot to do with it:
Police gave repeated warnings to protesters to disperse from the entrance to Frank Ogawa Plaza at 14th Street and Broadway before firing several tear gas canisters into the crowd at about 7:45 p.m. Police had announced over a loudspeaker that those who refused to leave could be targeted by “chemical agents.”
Protesters scattered in both directions on Broadway as the tear gas canisters and several flash-bang grenades went off. Regrouping, protesters tried to help one another and offered each other eye drops.
One wounded woman, who others said had been hit by one of the canisters, was carried away by two protesters.
One protester, 35-year-old Jerry Smith, said a tear gas canister had rolled to his feet and sprayed him in the face.
“I got the feeling they meant business, but people were not going to be intimidated,” Smith said. “We can do this peacefully, but still not back down.”
Oakland’s embattled mayor, Jean Quan, reportedly rushed back from Washington, D.C. once word of the events broke. Her official statement commended Oakland’s interim chief of police for the way the police handled themselves, and the chief himself offered justification for their behavior – the police were being hit with objects thrown by protesters:
“We were in a position where we had to deploy gas in order to stop the crowd and people from pelting us with bottles and rocks,” the chief said. Protesters had also thrown paint “and other agents” at officers, he added.