US police clear out downtown Occupy Oakland camp

Riot-clad law enforcement officers cleared out Oakland`s weeks-old anti-Wall Street encampment just before dawn.

Updated: Nov 14, 2011, 23:49 PM IST

Oakland: Riot-clad law enforcement officers cleared out Oakland`s weeks-old anti-Wall Street encampment just before dawn on Monday, arresting Occupy demonstrators and removing tents from a downtown plaza after issuing several warnings over the weekend.

Protesters appeared to put up little resistance and officers could be seen calmly leading some demonstrators away in plastic handcuffs. Warnings from authorities had been similar to those issued before officers used tear gas and bean bag projectiles to clear the encampment on October 25.

Police made more than 20 arrests during Monday`s raid, Mayor Jean Quan said.

After officers blocked off the streets surrounding Frank Ogawa Plaza, some demonstrators gathered near the barricades and vowed to return.

"I don`t see how they`re going to disperse us," 30-year-old Ohad Meyer said. "There are thousands of people who are going to come back."

The action came a day after police drove hundreds of anti-Wall Street demonstrators from weeks-old encampments in Portland, arresting more than 50 people.

Oakland officials stepped up calls for an end to their city`s encampment after a man was shot and killed Thursday near the plaza. Police issued a fourth cease and desist order Sunday night telling demonstrators they couldn`t camp there.

Quan had allowed protesters to reclaim the disbanded site after facing criticism following the October 25 raid. The camp grew substantially afterward, although city officials said on Sunday the number of tents has dropped by about 30 to 150 since November 08.

"We really tried to make this a safe and peaceful day," Quan said after the tents were taken down on Monday. "Even though there are those who disagree with my decision, we hope it is peaceful. We need them to honour and respect our city and keep it safe."

Protesters would be allowed to return to the plaza after the tents were cleared out, but they wouldn`t be allowed to spend the night, the mayor said.

"We`ve been consistent that they can use it as a free speech location," she said. "They can gather tonight, but no camping is allowed."

On Sunday, friends confirmed that an Iraq War veteran who was injured in the October 25 raid, Scott Olsen, has been released from the hospital. Olsen, who suffered a skull fracture, became a rallying point for protesters nationwide.

Dottie Guy of Iraq Veterans Against the War said on Sunday that Olsen was released last week. He can now read and write, but still has trouble talking, she added.

Officials across the country have been urging an end to similar gatherings in the wake of three deaths in different cities, including two deaths by gunfire.

Demands for Oakland protesters to pack up increased after a man was shot and killed Thursday near the encampment site.

Protesters had said that there was no connection between the shooting and the camp. But police o Sunday night identified the slain man as 25-year-old Kayode Ola Foster of Oakland, saying his family confirmed he had been staying at the plaza.

Police officer Johnna Watson said witnesses have told police that one of two suspects in the shooting had also been a frequent resident at the plaza. The suspects` names haven`t been released.

Investigators suspect that the shooting resulted from a fight between two groups of men.

In the hours after the midnight Saturday eviction deadline in Portland, the anti-Wall Street protesters and their supporters had flooded the park area. At one point, the crowd swelled to thousands. As dawn arrived, riot police had retreated and most of the crowds had gone home, but protesters who have been at the two parks since October 06 were still there, prompting one organizer to declare the night a victory for the movement.

"We stood up to state power," Jim Oliver said.

It didn`t last. Police moved in later. An officer on a loudspeaker warned that anyone who resisted risked arrest and "may also be subject to chemical agents and impact weapons." Demonstrators chanted "we are a peaceful protest."

"We were talking about what we were going to do and then they just started hitting people. Seems like a waste of resources to me," protester Mike Swain, 27, said.

One man was taken away on a stretcher; he was alert and talking to paramedics, and raised a peace sign to fellow protesters, who responded with cheers.

City officials erected temporary chain-link fences with barbed wire at the top around three adjacent downtown parks, choking off access for demonstrators as parks officials cleaned up.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams on Sunday defended his order to clear the park, saying it is his job to enforce the law and keep the peace. "This is not a game," Adams said.

Officials said that one officer suffered minor injuries. Police had prepared for a possible clash, warning that dozens of anarchists may be planning a confrontation with authorities.

Bureau Report