Occupy Oakland’s #J28 Move in Day Thwarted by Violent #OPD Actions
January 28 was supposed to be a day of community building for local occupy activists, but the day turned violent when police began to block the protesters from marching. An estimated 1500-2000 people turned out for the ‘move in day‘, who all planned on commandeering a vacant home or building to set up as a social center for members of the community to gather, communicate and share resources. The city of Oakland cracked down hard on it’s citizens, using chemical agents, less-lethal shot gun projectiles, flash-bang grenades, & overly aggressive officers who ended up arresting more than 400 people, including a handful of journalists.
An estimated 2,000 people converged at Oscar Grant Plaza, formerly known as Frank H Ogawa Plaza, near city hall at noon and began marching down Broadway to the first vacant location chosen for occupation.
|Protesters avoiding OPD tear gas on 12th Street|
The march made it’s first stop at Laney College, where activists planned on occupying the near by Kaiser convention center, which has been vacant since 2006. As thousands spilled onto 12th street on the west side of Lake Marritt, police began to issue dispersal orders “in the name of the people of California.” After multiple attempts of verbally clearing the protesters off the road, OPD began firing smoke bombs & tear gas into the crowd. This only enraged protesters who began chanting back at the police, “We are the people of California!”
Minutes after the smoked cleared, protesters made the decision to move on up 12th street where they hooked a left onto Oak street where they were reunited with a familiar line of riot police blocking their path. A group of more ‘radical’ protesters who had made makeshift shields out of garbage cans and other metals & woods, took to the front line to confront the line of police. A young woman who was in the front passed out and collapsed to the ground, which prompted the protesters front line to go to her aid. The police must have viewed their armor as a threat, as OPD began to fire less-lethal projectiles & tear gas into the crowd yet again, this time without any warning. A couple front line activists responded to the chemical agents and other projectiles by throwing rocks, oranges and even a couple chairs in the direction of the police.
|An #oo activist prepares for OPD tear gas on Oak street|
After it became clear that the police were willing and ready to physically hurt people, the massive group marched back to Oscar Grant Plaza (City Hall), where they took a brief break to re-organize, energize and to tend to injuries.
At around 5pm marchers took back to the streets with the intent on finding a new home. The protest moved to a small community park, where they had previously set up camp back in November, before being evicted by police. The police followed the protesters and formed lines on all four corners of the area, effectively trapping over 800 people in a small area. The same group of ‘radical’ front line protesters decided to try to break a small line in order to create a route in which the masses could disperse. As they approached the line of police, officers quickly responded with more tear gas & hitting the protesters with their batons. The police then took the shield the small group had been using as protection. The tear gas in the air created more chaos as people had no where to run. The only option was to go through the park, which had a metal chain link fence set up to prevent anyone from using the open space. Seemingly on instinct, the massive crowd pushed through the fence and flooded back out into the street.
The protest moved foreword towards the next available building, but was again cut off by lines of riot police near a YMCA. Hundreds of marchers were kettled in the street outside of the YMCA, again with out being given an option for dispersal. As I noticed there was no place to go to get away from the police, I climbed the cement steps up to the YMCA to be able to film from a higher point. Once there, I realized the police were slowly moving in on both sides, squeezing the protesters together directly at the steps of the building. A few people, including myself, knocked on the doors and requested permission to enter the YMCA to be able to exit through the back door. After a couple of minutes, employees decided to give protesters refuge and opened all of the front doors as to invite everyone in. As people cheered with gratitude, police began to charge up the stairs, throwing people off them as they made their way towards the front doors. I was swept up in the stampede and before I knew it I was inside the building, looking for the nearest exit. I made my way down the stairs and directly out the back door. Unfortunately over 400 other people were not so lucky as they spent the next six or so hours being arrested, processed and transported to jail for “breaking into the YMCA.”
I had spent the day with a fellow live streamer, Christina from SAC Media. During the YMCA stampede we were separated and she was unable to gain access to the YMCA. As a result she was arrested on burglary charges with more than 400 other people, even though she never even made it through the front doors. One of her three arresting officers tightened the zip-tie on her left wrist so tight that is caused major nerve damage. Once she was released the next day, she was rushed to the emergency room where she learned the bad news. Christina has already filed a law suit against the city and the police, and plans on pressing charges against the officers who assaulted her.
After my quick escape from the most recent police kettle and mass arrest, those who were either allowed to leave or by their own will were able to flee, re-grouped back at Oscar Grant Plaza. As we walked through the plaza I noticed that the police had left one of their unmarked white vans parked in the public space. I thought to myself, “this must be a plant, they left this van here in hopes someone would vandalize it.” Moments later an unknown individual led the group towards City Hall, where the doors were mysteriously left open. Without the presence of any security or police, the same individual began to shout “City Hall is open to the public! Come on in!”
|OPD fires tear gas after an America flag is burned|
A few entered the building, within 10 minutes all who had entered had exited the building, one person carrying the American flag out with him. That flag was then burned on the steps of City Hall in a symbolic protest. The police helicopter was shining their light on the individuals who entered City Hall as they were entering, yet police did not arrive until at least 25 minutes later.
Later that night the Mayor was already on the news talking about protesters who “broke into” City Hall & the YMCA and how they damaged childrens’ art work. It could not be more clear that the Mayor conspired with the media to create and spin certain situations in the favor of the police and her job. Most of the main stream media coverage does not accurately reflect the events of the day, nor do the accounts given by the Mayor.
Thankfully the occupy movement, and many events leading up to it, has inspired a global network of live streamers & social media users who know and tell the truth from start to finish.