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Occupy Oakland On May Day: Stinging Gas Sends Protesters Fleeing (PHOTOS, LIVE UPDATES)

Occupy Oakland May Day

TERRY COLLINS   05/ 1/12 10:58 PM ET  AP

OAKLAND, Calif. — Thousands of protesters in New York demanded an end to income inequality and housing foreclosures. Police fired tear gas to disperse marchers in Oakland, Calif. And black-clad demonstrators smashed windows in Seattle and occupied a building owned by the Catholic archdiocese in San Francisco.

Activists across the U.S. joined in worldwide May Day protests Tuesday, with anti-Wall Street demonstrators leading the way in some cities as they tried to recapture the enthusiasm that propelled their movement last fall.

While some protesters clashed with police, the melees were far less violent than ones that erupted last fall when the movement was at its peak. Marches and strikes led to a handful of arrests but no major disruptions.

Many of the rallies, which drew activists pushing a variety of causes, also did not have the same drawing power that gatherings had last year for the Occupy movement or a half-dozen years ago for May Day rallies for immigration reform.

In recent years, activists in the U.S. used May Day to hold rallies for immigrant rights, but the day has been associated for more than a century with workers' rights and the labor movement both in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Across the world on Tuesday, protests drew tens of thousands of demonstrators into the streets from the Philippines to Spain. They demanded everything from wage increases to an end to cuts in education, health care and other austerity measures.

The U.S. protests were the most visible organizing effort by anti-Wall Street groups since the movement's encampments were dismantled last fall.

The major developments include:

_ In Oakland, the scene of several violent clashes between activists and police in recent months, the situation threatened to boil over again when police fired tear gas, sending hundreds of demonstrators scrambling.

Officers also fired "flash-bang" grenades to disperse protesters converging on police as they wrestled people to the ground while trying to make arrests, police said. Nine people were taken into custody.

Earlier, some protesters tried to force businesses to shut down for not observing calls for a "general strike."

_ In Seattle, black-clad protesters used sticks to smash small downtown windows and ran through the streets disrupting traffic. Police have made at least six arrests.

While much smaller in scale, the mayhem was reminiscent of the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in the city that caused widespread damage to stores and forced the cancellation of some WTO events.

Authorities said many of the most violent protesters were trying to hide in the larger crowd by shedding their all-black clothes after they had caused damage with things like rocks, hammers and tire irons.

_ In New York, hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters and their supporters spilled out onto Fifth Avenue in a confrontation with police amid citywide May Day protests, while thousands later gathered peacefully in Union Square.

The group had promised the day would mark a spring revival of their movement.

Occupy organizer Mark Bray said the mood had changed since the group's first organized events late last year. "There was a sense of novelty to Occupy in October," he said. "Today is more celebratory, and nostalgic."

Marchers briefly flooded the avenue and blocked traffic before police in riot gear pushed them back onto the sidewalks. The group chanted: "We are the people. We are united!"

_ In San Francisco, about 200 people took over a vacant building that is owned by the local archdiocese and has been targeted for previous protests. Two men on adjacent rooftops lobbed pipes and bricks at a line of police officers who were awaiting permission from the church to clear the building.

Police Chief Greg Suhr told reporters he assumed some of the people inside the building were part of a group that vandalized shops, cars and a police station during a pre-May Day demonstration Monday night.

_ In Chicago, about 2,000 activists marched through the city to demand immigration reform and greater protections for workers. The demonstration was largely peaceful. Half a million people rallied in Chicago in 2006 to demand immigration reform. But numbers since have plummeted to just a few thousand.

_ In Los Angeles, a group that broke off from a downtown rally for immigration reform briefly skirmished with police and left an officer injured, and 10 union demonstrators were arrested for blocking an intersection near Los Angeles International airport.

The downtown splinter group of several dozen protesters surrounded a small group of police in a tense standoff. Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith told KNBC-TV that an officer was hit in the helmet by a skateboard, but she was in good condition at a hospital.

_ In Atlanta, about 100 people rallied outside the state Capitol, where a law targeting illegal immigration was passed last year. They called for equal rights for all workers and an end to local-federal partnerships to enforce immigration law.

The rally was significantly smaller than last year's, which drew about 1,000 people. Organizers said turnout last year was greater, in part, because the protest was on a Sunday, rather than during the work week.

"I'm a bit disappointed, but I think this is something to be expected," said Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, one of the main organizers of the rally.

"It's very difficult to keep a high level of excitement going," Nicholls said. "But it's not only about mobilization. It's also about organization, and we have people working every day to promote immigrant rights."

___

Contributing to this report were Associated Press photographer Eric Risberg in Oakland, and AP writers Samantha Gross, Colleen Long and Verena Dobnik in New York, Christina Hoag in Los Angeles, Peter Prengaman and Kate Brumback in Atlanta, Doug Glass in Minneapolis and Sophia Tareen in Chicago.

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Twenty-five people were arrested on May 1 during the Occupy Oakland demonstrations, the City of Oakland reported. Although a complete breakdown of the arrests is not currently available, at least one person was detained for assaulting a police officer. Two others face felony arson arrests (one of the suspected arsonists allegedly set a police vehicle on fire).

Incidents of vandalism were reported at three banks. The windows of an Oakland Police Department van were broken and the tires of one news media vehicle were also punctured.

Public Works crews are now trying to clean up the damage and restore the city before daybreak.

-- Jade Walker

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As thousands of people streamed down Broadway into Lower Manhattan, they faced a choice: go home to their apartments or stick around to see what happened next. Many -- including almost all the union members and immigrant rights' activists, it seemed -- chose the former. The younger demonstrators who remained, many of them clad in black, headed to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza.

By 9 p.m., perhaps a thousand protesters were gathered in the small park. "This park officially closes at 10 p.m. Some of us will stay here indefinitely," one speaker announced over the human microphone. The goal was nothing short of re-occupation.

As the hour wore on, people sat and chatted and something of a General Assembly occurred. (Occupy Wall Street hasn't had one of those gatherings since March.) Shortly after 10 p.m., a police officer on a bullhorn announced that anyone who stayed would be arrested. Most of those assembled complied with police orders. A few -- reportedly from Veterans for Peace and Occupy Faith -- stayed on, willing to be arrested.

Hundreds streamed into the night, some getting on subway trains and others engaging in a cat-and-mouse game with the police through the Financial District's narrow streets. The Huffington Post witnessed several arrestees loaded into a police van at Hanover Square, including one of a man wearing an Oakland Athletic's baseball cap.

By the end, a few hundred protesters gathered in Zuccotti Park to wind down a successful day's gathering and relive old times. In the city host to the A's, meanwhile, the night was only getting started.

-- Matt Sledge

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Business Week reports that the men charged with plotting to blow up a bridge had only vague associations with Occupy Cleveland. Although they had attended Occupy events in the past, FBI spokesperson Vicki Anderson told the publication that there was no link between the alleged bomb conspiracy and the Occupy group.

"This was not an Occupy movement plot," she said. "They were individuals that formed their own group to conspire."

The men allegedly felt that the Occupy movement didn't go far enough and were considering a hospital or a cargo ship as possible targets.

USA Today reported: "What sets the alleged Ohio operation apart is its link to self-proclaimed anarchists -- with no connections to international terrorist organizations -- who believed that members of the ubiquitous Occupy protest movement had not gone far enough to express their displeasure with high-flying corporate America."

-- Jason Cherkis

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-- Photos by Brandon Bowlin/thedarkroome.com

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-- Photos by Brandon Bowlin/thedarkroome.com

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Protesters smashed windows at a Wells Fargo bank branch and Starbucks store in Seattle on May Day, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. The Wells Fargo Center in downtown Seattle "had the feel of a building about to be under siege, but not just yet."

You can view a slideshow of the Seattle protest here, from the Puget Sound Business Journal.

--Bonnie Kavoussi

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--From Lakewood (Ohio) Patch:

Brandon Baxter

The former Lakewood resident was arrested a few times as a juvenile — including a September 2009 incident when he was arrested for allegedly stabbing a family member with a knife. Lakewood police charged him with aggravated attempted murder, but the outcome of the case is not available as juvenile court records were sealed. As an adult, Baxter -- whom acquaintances told Patch was intelligent, quiet and strange -- was charged with criminal trespassing in 2010, stemming from an incident at Lakewood Park.

Anthony Hayne

With a criminal history that stretches back to 2000, Hayne's record is littered with charges of theft, drugs and receiving stolen property. Hayne was most recently found guilty of breaking and entering in November 2011. In that case, he was sentenced to probation.

Joshua Stafford

In August 2010, Stafford pleaded guilty to charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor; giving false information to a police officer; and possession of drug paraphernalia. In Lorain County, he also was charged with criminal trespassing, theft and receiving stolen property and attempted breaking and entering.

-- Colin McEwen

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-- Photo submitted by Occupy activist Joan Donovan.

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Occupy Miami blames police for the arrest of 3 May Day protestors, including a live-streamer accused of assaulting an officer. In a statement, the group said police prompted a skirmish by becoming overly agressive while providing what an Miami Police Department incident report termed "safe escort":

Miami police escalated what was a peaceful protest by pulling three individuals out of the crowd of 100 in front of the Wells Fargo and beating them with fists and batons. They also punched our live stream media in the face and nearly broke his phone...

While the protestors had not instigated any problems the police and been escalating the action towards violence for most of the march by running cars and bicycles into the peaceful marchers.

Occupiers are now holding a candlelight vigil outside the jail to protest the arrests. Get the full story, at HuffPost Miami.

-- Janie Campbell

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Police appear to be ready to make a move against the protesters at 55 Water street. The NYCLU reports: "NYPD on bullhorn saying that park is closed, you will have few minutes to leave, if you refuse you will be arrested."

Reporter Matt Sledge says that "Police lining up around edge of Vietnam vets, speaker says 'know that this decision is your own.'"

Another Twitter user reports, "Several NYPD vans just rolled up to 55 Water. Very scary sight."

-- Jonah Green

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The Huffington Post's Robin Wilkey and Aaron Sankin report:

Hundreds of protesters flooded the streets of San Francisco and Oakland on Tuesday as part of the nationwide May Day general strike organized largely by Occupy Wall Street.

In Oakland, a crowd marched down Broadway at noon, closing the thoroughfare to downtown traffic. But protesters quickly clashed with police.

The situation escalated when officers attempted to lead a patrol wagon onto the scene to make arrests. Protesters surrounded the vehicle, prompting police to deploy tear gas and flash bang grenades to disperse the crowd. Officers made several arrests, and Occupy Oakland organizer Boots Riley tweeted that one woman was sent to the hospital for a head injury allegedly inflicted by authorities.

Read the whole story here.

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@ macfathom : The 99% bat-signal is projecting onto the building north of the park. (Lighting isn't optimal, so no picture.) #m1nyc

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The police officer throws the grenade without warning or provocation at around the 1:26 mark:

Video also available here.

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Head over to HuffPost New York for more photos of the day's events.

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Thousands of protesters at 55 Water St in downtown NYC. Live stream reporter Tim Pool says that, according to multiple sources, protesters will attempt to reoccupy downtown, "and this is the site of the new occupation."

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@ JoshuaHol : Protester on roof throwing objects at police. Officers trying to get a shot w teargas. #M1GS #osf

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@ JoshuaHol : Protester on roof throwing objects at police. Officers trying to get a shot w teargas. #M1GS #osf

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@ OccupySeattle : #occupyseattle #m1gs has shut down 3rd ave at pike

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@ lizpelly : The #funeralforcapitalism is about to proceed down Newbury Street... #m1gs #m1gsbos #Mayday

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Via Twitter user @mollycrabapple:

Crowd and cops still, staring at eachother #m1ny #ows on Twitpic

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You can watch it here.

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In New York City, the march has reached the Financial District -- but it apparently won't be going onto Wall Street itself. Stefan Ringel, a spokesman for New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, relayed to HuffPost that "Wall Street is completely blocked, with two to three lines (of officers)."

Mounted police are also keeping an eye on the scene, and perched on the corner, according to Ringel: NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne himself.

"They got the top brass standing there," Ringel said.

-- Matt Sledge

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A spokesperson for Sergeant Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association in New York City, sent out an email on Monday saying the sergeant would be "available to speak about tomorrow’s protest and the effect of OWS protesters getting involved during May Day."

The Huffington Post took the bait: In the sergeant's opinion, what were the potential effects of OWS protestors getting involved during May Day?

"The truth of it is it really doesn't matter," said Mullins, a member of the New York City police force for over 30 years. "They're gonna get involved in a protest, big deal. If you don't pay attention to them it won't be an issue. This is a group that stays around and protests and protests and protests and I don't know why we keep paying attention to them.

Mullins was asked if he objected to protests on principle.

"This country has been based on protests," he said. "Everybody wants better wages, we all do."

So why did he suggest ignoring Occupy Wall Street?

"The Occupy Wall Street people in my opinion serve no purpose other than disrupting society in terms of disrupting pedestrian traffic, causing injuries and generating arrests and spending millions of dollars in taxpayers money," Mullins said.

"What was the point of that protest?" he asked, referring to the Zuccotti Park encampment and the other high-profile demonstrations of the fall.

It was suggested that the point was to raise awareness of the growing inequality between rich and poor, among other things.

"Did that happen?" the sergeant asked.

It was suggested that it did.

"I just don't see the organization to them," he said.

--Saki Knafo

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After a slow start Tuesday morning, Occupy Wall Street successfully massed thousands of people under sunny weather in New York's Union Square Park. By 6 p.m. ET, they were streaming in the thousands down Broadway for a permitted march to the Financial District. A full range of the groups Occupy has brought under its umbrella, from labor unions to immigrant workers' groups to anarchists, was on display.

At the head of the march: a cabbie named Beresford Simmons.

"I'm an independent contractor," he said. "To take a day just to do this, I'm really losing a lot of money. Anything for the workers."

Simmons and other members of the Taxi Workers Alliance had affixed signs demanding disability insurance for their colleagues. Simmons' poster, however, was a little more simple: "Union Power."

Behind him, the march snaked down Broadway for more than a dozen blocks. A wild assortment of protesters from bike brigades to "Tax Dodgers" in baseball uniforms, fronted by a cheerleader with a "Loopholes" hula hoop, made the street come alive like a carnival.

At the rear of the procession, Alejandra Ospina was shuttling down Broadway in her wheelchair. A member of Occupy Wall Street's disability caucus, she is concerned that if the economy doesn't improve, there will be more cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid that people like her partner rely on.

"I don't know what protesting will do," Ospina said. "But if we don't try, we'll die."

--Matt Sledge

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@ LuddoftheFuture : I think my previous crowd estimates were wayy low. Now hearing our march is at least 16 blocks long, and it's at least 1000 per block. #M1GS

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@ mtracey : Best chant: "NYPD, keep your hands off me. I sag my pants -- I rock my hoodie." Great cadence. #M1GS

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Via HuffPost Los Angeles:

Joe Moller, executive director of Downtown LA Artwalk, found himself one block away from the May Day action. Moller walked out of his office and spent some time taking pictures of the protesters who had gathered below his building. He told HuffPost, "Regardless of which side of the percentage sign you land on, experiencing the political action of these groups is impressive and important. Everyone should be paying attention."

All photos by Joe Moller

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The Alameda County Sheriff deploys a tank to control the crowd at Occupy Oakland.

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HuffPost reader Nick Brown sends in these photos. The march is heading to the financial district, tensions are high, he says.

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Filed by Carly Schwartz  |