Occupy Oakland: Protesters, Officials Take Stock Of Costs [LATEST UPDATES]
By TERRY COLLINS, The Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The tear gas clouds have cleared, graffiti has been scrubbed off buildings and shattered glass has been swept away.
As downtown Oakland attempts to get back to normal – which for now seems to include a massive Occupy Wall Street tent encampment in front of city hall – the costs of the movement on the long-struggling city are just starting to come into focus.
And the divisions over the violent tactics that capped an otherwise peaceful day of protest may be taking a toll on the movement itself.
In contrast to New York's thriving island of affluence, Oakland has spent decades on the cusp, a tough, blue-collar town that struggles with poverty and crime.
The protests have been centered in a part of town that has been the target of economic revitalization efforts that recently have lent the area a more upscale vibe but where abandoned storefronts remain plentiful.
City politicians at a chaotic five-hour meeting Thursday night homed in on the price of business lost because of the protests.
Downtown retailers and business leaders say customers and businesses have been scared off. One high-profile real estate developer said he stood in the lobby of his historic office building next to the encampment early Thursday morning and sent vandals at the door scattering when he racked his loaded shotgun.
"We're losing 300 to 400 jobs on people who decided to not renew their leases or not to come here," said Mayor Jean Quan, who also complained about what she said was the protesters' lack of willingness to talk with city officials about seeking common ground.
The president of the Chamber of Commerce blames Quan for three deals falling through.
Two businesses planning to lease a total of 50,000 square feet of office space and another planning to bring 100 jobs into the city pulled out after Quan allowed protesters to return to their camp after a police raid had cleared them out, Joseph Haraburda said.
"We have economic development in reverse right now," he said.
Quan has paid a high political price over her handling of the Occupy encampment.
From an early morning police raid to clear the camp to a tear gas-filled clash with protesters that night to an about-face that has allowed the camp to grow bigger than ever, Quan has faced a barrage of criticism from all sides claiming she has failed to show leadership in the crisis.
The City Council did not vote Thursday on an expected resolution to pledge the city's support to the Occupy movement as several councilmembers expressed doubts, leaving the city's position unclear.
What is clear is that the cash-strapped city's response to the protests is incurring major costs, especially in the form of police overtime.
The Oakland Police Officer's Association, which represents the rank-and-file, estimates that the city will have spent about $2 million in the past two weeks on the police response to the protests, which at one point included help from more than a dozen outside police forces.
"Occupy Wall Street comes in, takes over the park, starts to bleed the resources of this city – resources that this city does not have," said Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, the union's president, who added that officers support the message of the movement but not its tactics.
The high-crime city laid off 80 officers last year in its effort to close a recession-driven budget gap.
Those hardships have not earned the police much sympathy from protesters, who have implored officers to cross the riot lines, in a city that has a long history of tensions between residents and officers.
Before Wednesday's massive turnout, Occupy Oakland had adopted several official positions, but none stating that the leaderless group was committed to non-violence. Like anti-Wall Street encampments in other cities, the Oakland offshoot adopts stands at evening meetings known as a General Assembly that are held four times a week.
Among the stances taken by Occupy Oakland was one encouraging participants to use a "diversity of tactics" outside the main encampment to register dissatisfaction with the economic status quo.
As an example, it noted that during confrontations with police, some protesters might want to have calm conversations and urge officers to be non-violent, while others might choose to express their anger by yelling, trying to remove police barriers, or disrupting traffic.
Yet at a news conference Thursday, divisions among protesters surfaced as several spokespeople addressed the latest vandalism.
Shake Anderson, a member of Occupy Oakland's media committee, said participants in the encampment had called the mayor's office to disavow the people who were causing damage, an action Quan later praised as helping prevent a bigger blowup between protesters and police.
"We called the mayor's office the instant we understood what was taking place over there," Anderson said.
"That was an anonymous action. That was nothing to do with Occupy Oakland," Anderson said.
Another committee member, Varucha Peller, interrupted and pleaded with Anderson to stick with the group's approved message of focusing attention on the thousands of people who shut down the Port of Oakland on Wednesday night.
"Occupy Oakland did not call the mayor's office. Individuals called the mayor's office. Occupy Oakland has a policy that has been passed through the General Assembly that we do not negotiate with politicians and we do not involve political parties," Peller said.
An early Occupy supporter whose views appear to be diverging from the group is Councilwoman Desley Brooks, who camped out with protesters early on. At the council meeting, she expressed skepticism about the camp's sustainability.
"I believe and understand the lack of hope and the pain and the frustration that people are feeling," said Brooks as her colleagues nodded in agreement. "But I have been extremely troubled, troubled by how far do we allow your rights to go and infringe on other people's rights."
Associated Press writers Marcus Wohlsen in San Francisco and Lisa Leff in Oakland and video journalist Haven Daley in Oakland contributed to this report.
Latest Updates On HuffPost's Live Blog:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Occupy Long Beach is defending the mother's home. For more information, click here.
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.
Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:
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.
|@ 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!|
|@ macfathom : Doubling east on Barclay, and now the ragged front of the march is at City Hall. #OWS|
|@ 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?"
|@ jeffrae : March is heading north up broadway #ows #occupywallstreet|
|@ macfathom : Dozens of arrests, many cuffed and sitting on broadway waiting for their ride to jail. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : Police are barricading the park. It's cleared. I witnessed countless violent arrests. No way to estimate numbers.|
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.
|@ ANIMALNewYork : NYPD just made an announcement that Brookfield has to "clean the park" and Liberty Plaza is officially "closed."|
|@ 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|
|@ JackieHRye : NYPD just "destroyed" the tent in Zuccotti Park, Occupiers call for its re-building. Marching band also going through the park. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : The tent in the middle of the park continues to fill with people planning to stay the night. Lots of energy here.|
Activists ask for more room as the tent is growing, expanding.
"It looks like a floating tent." -- as Tim on his live stream.
|@ 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|
Activists have assembled make-shift, cardboard sleeping areas inside Zuccotti Park. The cardboard is joined by a large green tarp.