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Occupy Protesters Disavow Oakland Violence (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

AP   JASON DEAREN and LISA LEFF   First Posted: 11/03/11 02:42 PM ET   Updated: 11/04/11 02:05 PM ET

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Occupy Wall Street supporters who staged rallies that shut down the nation's fifth-busiest port during a day of protests condemned on Thursday the demonstrators who clashed with police in the latest flare-up of violence in Oakland, Calif.

Riot police arrested dozens of protesters in the city's downtown, where bands of demonstrators threw chunks of concrete and metal pipes as well as lit roman candles and firebombs, police said. At least four protesters and several officers were injured.

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"I think it will allow detractors to criticize the movement," protester Hale Nicholson said.

The protest outside the Port of Oakland, which reopened Thursday, represented an escalation in tactics as a movement that had largely been about marches, rallies and tent camps targeted a major symbol of the nation's commerce.

The violence that followed, however, raised questions about the direction of the movement and whether the clashes, so far mostly isolated in a city with a history of tensions between residents and police, will galvanize protesters or hurt their cause.

Nicholson blamed the violence on a small group of young people just there for violence - "Some kids looking to blow off some steam."

In Los Angeles, a spokesman for the encampment there, said those demonstrators don't represent the movement.

"We are about peace. That's the most powerful tool we have," said Mario Jefferson of the Occupy LA encampment, noting that the movement attracts many types of people, including some prone to violence.

"We don't want to waste energy on breaking things. We're trying to do this thing peacefully," he said.

The far-flung movement challenging the world's economic systems and distribution of wealth has gained momentum in recent weeks, capturing the world's attention as they set up tent camps from New York's Wall Street to Los Angeles' Skid Row.

Oakland became a rallying point last week after an Iraq War veteran was injured when protesters and riot police battled in the streets.

Organizers called for a general strike on Wednesday, and supporters in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and elsewhere staged smaller-scale demonstrations, some in solidarity with their Oakland counterparts.

Oakland protesters viewed the strike and port shutdown as a significant victory.

Police, who had little to no presence during the protest during the day, said that about 7,000 people participated in demonstrations that were peaceful except for a few incidents of vandalism at local banks and businesses.

"We put together an ideological principle that the mainstream media wouldn't talk about two months ago," organizer Boots Riley said.

Riley, whose anti-capitalist views are well documented, considered the port shutdown particularly significant for organizers who targeted it in an effort to stop the "flow of capital."

The port sends goods primarily to Asia, including wine as well as rice, fruits and nuts, and handles imported electronics, apparel and manufacturing equipment, mostly from Asia, as well as cars and parts from Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai.

An accounting of the financial toll from the shutdown was not immediately available.

His comments came before a group of protesters broke into the former Travelers Aid building in order to, as some shouting protesters put it, "reclaim the building for the people."

The potential for the chaos that ultimately erupted was not something Riley wanted to even consider.

"If they do that after all this ..." he said, pausing cautiously, then adding, "They're smarter than that."

Occupy protesters voicing anger over a budget trim that forced the closure of a homeless aid program converged on the empty building where it had been housed just outside of downtown.

They blocked off a street with wood, metal Dumpsters and other large trash bins, sparking bonfires that leapt as high as 15 feet in the air.

City officials later released a statement describing the spasm of unrest.

"Oakland Police responded to a late night call that protesters had broken into and occupied a downtown building and set several simultaneous fires," the statement read. "The protesters began hurling rocks, explosives, bottles, and flaming objects at responding officers."

Several businesses were heavily vandalized. Dozens of protesters wielding shields were surrounded and arrested.

Protesters ran from several rounds of tear gas and bright flashes and deafening pops that some thought were caused by "flash bang" grenades. Fire crews arrived and suppressed the protesters' flames.

Protesters and police faced off in an uneasy standoff until the wee hours of the morning.

It is the kind of posture that Oakland is familiar with. It was the scene of violent protests in 2009 and 2010 over the killing of an unarmed black man by a white transit officer. Downtown businesses were looted, windows smashed and fires set.

Then, as now, police blamed the violence on a small group of anarchists, many from outside the city.

In 2003, a police crackdown on an anti-war demonstration at the Port of Oakland left protesters and dockworkers hospitalized and resulted in police getting a new, stricter crowd-control policy.

The history of clashes goes back even further to demonstrations in the 1960s over the Vietnam War and the draft, among other issues.

For most of Wednesday, peace prevailed at the rallies in Oakland, even attracting families, some taking their children along in strollers. Protesters hung a large black banner downtown that read: "DEATH TO CAPITALISM."

During the rally, some protesters broke away and picketed outside nearby banks. Some of the buildings were vandalized.

Further away from the rally, vandals shattered a Chase bank branch and splattered ink all over an ATM. Someone later taped a note to the shattered glass that read: "We are better than this. ... Sorry, the 99 percent."

In Philadelphia, protesters were arrested as they held a sit-in at the headquarters of cable giant Comcast. In New York, about 100 military veterans marched in uniform and stopped in front of the New York Stock Exchange, standing in loose formation.

The veterans were also angry that returned from war to find few job prospects.

In Boston, college students and union workers marched on Bank of America offices, the Harvard Club and the Statehouse to protest the nation's burgeoning student debt crisis.

And among the other protests in Oakland, parents and their kids joined in by forming a "children's brigade."

"There's absolutely something wrong with the system," said Jessica Medina, a single mother who attends school part time and works at an Oakland cafe. "We need to change that."

___

Associated Press writers Garance Burke, Marcus Wohlsen and Beth Duff-Brown in San Francisco, Terry Collins and Terence Chea in Oakland, Calif., Mark Pratt in Boston, JoAnn Loviglio in Philadelphia, Jon Fahey and Verena Dobnik in New York and Christina Hoag in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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  • Dec. 12, Noon

  • BoA Protest 11/17

    One hundred protesters were arrested inside the Bank of America Nov. 17.

  • BoA Protest 11/17

    One hundred protesters were arrested inside the Bank of America Nov. 17.

  • November 16, 2011

  • November 16, 2011

  • November 16, 2011

  • November 16, 2011

  • November 16, 2011

  • Occupy Oakland Raid

  • Tear Gas Released

    Raw footage clips taken from the protest - specifically covering the moments just before, during, and after the release of tear gas and rubber bullets on the crowd. Strong language and images.

  • The Best-Dressed Occupy SF Protestors 10-12

  • Protestors Camp Out In Front of Wells Fargo HQ 10-12

  • Occupy SF Protestors March in Downtown SF

  • Protestors Block Loading Dock at Wells Fargo HQ 10-12

  • The 99% Marches At Occupy SF 10-12

  • Sign At Occupy SF March 10-12

  • SF Icon Frank Chu Mixes His Sign Sith Occupy SF 10-12

  • Avalos speaks at Occupy SF Protest 10-12

  • Occupy San Francisco Banner

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Phil_Van_Dalen"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Phil_Van_Dalen">Phil Van Dalen</a>:<br />Sign of the Times

  • Occupy SF Camp

    <em>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyeung808/sets/72157627726890495/" target="_hplink">Kenneth Yeung</a>.</em>

  • Occupy SF Camp

    <em>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyeung808/sets/72157627726890495/" target="_hplink">Kenneth Yeung</a>.</em>

  • Occupy SF Camp

    <em>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyeung808/sets/72157627726890495/" target="_hplink">Kenneth Yeung</a>.</em>

  • Occupy SF Camp

    <em>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyeung808/sets/72157627726890495/" target="_hplink">Kenneth Yeung</a>.</em>


Latest Updates On HuffPost's Live Blog:

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Via HuffPost Miami:

When an Occupy Miami member offered evicted protestors vacant apartments in a building he owns in Downtown Miami's Overtown neighborhood, it seemed like the perfect solution: the 'Peace City' space would provide headquarters for the movement and shelter a small faction of the group's most vulnerable members. But it hasn't gone well. Other tenants say the building has become a cesspool of drug use and violence while non-resident Occupy Miami members are trying to distance themselves from the 'radicals' -- all while the two factions are wrestling for control over Occupy Miami's social media sites and future plans.

From the Miami New Times:

The feud between the Overtown occupiers and more mainstream members has only gotten worse. The two factions are now battling for control of Occupy Miami's social media sites. The movement's main Twitter account recently announced it had been "hijacked by a small, non-consensus group of radical members." The Occupy Miami Facebook page was also temporarily hacked by someone inside Peace City. Meanwhile, the Overtown occupation is slowly driving away more moderate members.

"This is a black eye on the Occupy movement," says Shannon Reaze, an Overtown community organizer and Occupy Miami supporter who is now helping tenants move out of Paz's building. "The violence and drugs going on here are way outside of what I thought Occupy stood for. This place is destabilized."

...The supposedly hard-core activists here spend their days drinking and getting high. And as Peace City devolves into lawlessness, the most committed occupiers are leaving. Local landowners and politicians want the place shut down, while cops are suspicious. Yet as long as Paz wants the protesters around, nothing short of a demolition order can keep them out.

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Via HuffPost DC:

WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC has a new lawsuit involving tents on its hands. But it doesn't involve temporary structures in McPherson Square.

Two protesters arrested during a February action outside Merrill Lynch's offices on 15th Street NW near McPherson Square have filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department, Legal Times reports. (Read the complaint here.)

The plaintiffs, Samuel Dukore and Kelly Canavan, were part of a "targeted occupation" of Merrill Lynch on Feb. 13 where protesters were raising awareness about Merrill Lynch's reportedly close ties with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa, for his part, claims that the reports of these close ties are "wildly inaccurate."

Full story here.

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OWS reports via its website:

After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.

According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨the new Occupation.¨ In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.

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Occupy Long Beach is defending the mother's home. For more information, click here.

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The woman had the apparent seizure has been identified by the New York Observer as Cecily McMillan:

Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist once profiled in Rolling Stone, suffered a seizure Saturday night during protest action near Zuccotti Park. Many on-scene reported Ms. McMillan had trouble breathing after she was tackled and handcuffed by law enforcement.

A video uploaded to Youtube late Saturday night purports to show the attack. Two women can be heard commenting, “There’s Cecily,” then there is confusion as the police clearly perform a violent take-down on someone in the crowd.

According to Jeff Sharlet’s November, 2011 article about the Occupy Movement, this may be Ms. McMillan’s second violent encounter with police.

To read the full story, go here.

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Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:

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Watch video from inside Zuccotti Park as police moved in late last night:

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The paper reports from last night's chaos at Zuccotti Park:

At one point, a woman who appeared to be suffering from seizures flopped on the ground in handcuffs as bystanders shouted for the police to remove the cuffs and provide medical attention. For several minutes the woman lay on the ground as onlookers made increasingly agonized demands until an ambulance arrived and the woman was placed inside.

By 12:20 a.m., a line of officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters, forcing them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.

Kobi Skolnick, 30, said that officers pushed him in several directions and that as he tried to walk away, he was struck from behind in the neck. “One of the police ran and hit me with a baton,” he said.

To read the full story, go here.

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@ Greg_Palast : Our photographer ZD Roberts beaten @OWS Zucotti Park by cops. Thrown to ground, hair grabbd, hit with clubs while yelling, I'M PRESS PRESS!

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@ macfathom : Doubling east on Barclay, and now the ragged front of the march is at City Hall. #OWS

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@ LuddoftheFuture : girl in the street having a seizure and the cops have her in handcuffs. can this get any worse (live at http://t.co/4pLyy3gP)

Activists cry out for paramedics. The woman is limp on the ground. "Come on you violent bastards where's the paramedics?"

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@ jeffrae : March is heading north up broadway #ows #occupywallstreet

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@ macfathom : Dozens of arrests, many cuffed and sitting on broadway waiting for their ride to jail. #OWS

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@ RDevro : Police are barricading the park. It's cleared. I witnessed countless violent arrests. No way to estimate numbers.

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@ troutish : Protesters being dragged out by the head at #OWS #Zucotti Park http://t.co/qomhKkrA

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Cops pulling apart human chains. There are shouts for mic checks. Now, chants start forming. "The NYPD are sweeping through," says Tim on the live stream.

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@ ANIMALNewYork : Police are moving in. It's chaos.

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@ ANIMALNewYork : NYPD just made an announcement that Brookfield has to "clean the park" and Liberty Plaza is officially "closed."

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@ OccupyWallStNYC : Bagpipers just started marching into the park bringing the party mood with them, NYPD arrested one of them, and things got real heated. #OWS

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@ JackieHRye : NYPD just "destroyed" the tent in Zuccotti Park, Occupiers call for its re-building. Marching band also going through the park. #OWS

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@ RDevro : The tent in the middle of the park continues to fill with people planning to stay the night. Lots of energy here.

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Activists ask for more room as the tent is growing, expanding.

"It looks like a floating tent." -- as Tim on his live stream.

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Owly Images

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@ OccupyWallStNYC : .@justawall is leading us in a song! "Hit the road, banks! And don't ya come back no more no more no more no more!" #OWS

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Activists have assembled make-shift, cardboard sleeping areas inside Zuccotti Park. The cardboard is joined by a large green tarp.

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@ RDevro : A tarp is going up in Zuccotti as protesters march around the park chant-dancing. #m17 http://t.co/rJfP3GF9

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Filed by Carly Schwartz  |