By JASON DEAREN and LISA LEFF, The Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Emotions ran high as Occupy Wall Street supporters and public officials dealt with the aftermath of protests that shut down the nation's fifth-busiest port before spiraling into chaos near the movement's downtown encampment.
Dozens of people who participated in the massive demonstrations Wednesday returned a day later to help clean up after a night of violence by what they characterized as a rogue band of troublemakers.
A group identifying itself as the movement's media committee released a statement Thursday expressing regret that their day of peaceful protests was marred by an "autonomous" group that broke windows and marked scores of buildings with graffiti. Later, hundreds of people attended an unruly City Council meeting as the board considered a resolution that would sanction a long-term protest camp at the plaza across from City Hall.
Barucha Heller, who identified herself as a member of Occupy Oakland's media committee, said at an afternoon news conference she thought the protests that drew 7,000 people to the streets and shut down the Port of Oakland had been a huge success. The media were wrong to focus on the rampant vandalism and spasms of violence that led to more than 100 arrests, she said.
"That's extremely irrelevant. What's relevant is there has been no general strike in the United States since 1946 and yesterday there was tens of thousands of people in the street, taking over banks, using a diversity of tactics and in many ways shutting down the city. We had tons of unions and workers come out," Heller said.
Things got testy, however, when another member of the media committee, Shake Anderson, said participants in the encampment outside City Hall had called the mayor's office early Thursday to disavow the people who were causing damage.
Heller interrupted him, saying that Occupy Oakland had not cooperated with the mayor. "If individuals called the mayor's office they do not represent Occupy Oakland."
She added, "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."
During the first few hours of the special meeting of City Council, many of the more than 100 people awaiting an opportunity to speak urged the panel to vote in favor of Councilmember Nancy Nadel's resolution that would support the camp.
Some in the crowd jeered when interim police chief Howard Jordan said his officers used "great restraint" during the protests. The council did not vote on the measure.
A night earlier, police in riot gear arrested dozens of protesters after bands of masked demonstrators took over a vacant building, erected roadblocks and threw chunks of concrete and firebombs. Five people and several officers were injured. Oakland officials said 103 people had been arrested by Thursday afternoon.
Hours before the group of what city leaders called "provocateurs" clashed with authorities, setting fires, spraying graffiti and shattering windows early Thursday, the demonstrations in the city had gone smoothly.
The far-flung movement challenging the world's economic systems and distribution of wealth has gained momentum in recent weeks, with Oakland becoming a rallying point after an Iraq War veteran was injured in clashes with police last week.
The 3,000-person protest outside the port Wednesday night represented an escalation in tactics as demonstrators targeted a major symbol of the nation's commerce with peaceful rallies and sit-ins, managing to effectively suspend maritime operations there for the night.
An accounting of the financial toll from the port shutdown was not immediately available.
A protest organizer in Chicago, Joshua Kaunert, said the shutdown was an "amazing" event for the movement, but he didn't want to speculate on what effect the violence would have. He said the lack of a formal leadership structure - and the emphasis on what he called a "true, direct democracy" - makes it difficult to weed out potential troublemakers.
"As a movement, it is definitely hard to keep that kind of element away, but that's a double-edged sword," Kaunert said. "If you want true, direct democracy, you're going to have issues, regardless."
In Denver, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore told Occupy supporters to be mindful of people trying to incite violence within the movement, saying they could be working undercover for the government.
Moore, who has been visiting Occupy protests in several cities, said governments have a long history of infiltrating protest movements.
"They want to ignite something to give them a reason to act violently against you," he said. "If you see somebody who says they're a member of this group trying to behave in a violent manner, you must surround that person with love and stop them."
Bob Norkus at the Occupy Boston camp said the riots didn't represent the broader movement and likely wouldn't have a lasting effect on it, either. The movement is still evolving and mistakes are inevitable, he said.
It "has to be nonviolent, or else it will just end. We won't get the support," he said. "It doesn't mean you can't agitate people. But you can't also be breaking windows and burning."
Associated Press writers Marcus Wohlsen in San Francisco, Terry Collins and Haven Daley in Oakland, Jay Lindsay in Boston and Christina Hoag in Los Angeles 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.