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Tensions simmer in Bay Area

Hundreds of Occupy Oakland protesters gather near site of Tuesday night's clash with police. In San Francisco, Occupy S.F. demonstrators face off with police.

October 27, 2011|By Lee Romney, Maria L. La Ganga and Robert J. Lopez, Los Angeles Times
  • Protesters shout slogans as they tear down fences securing a campsite in downtown Oakland.
Protesters shout slogans as they tear down fences securing a campsite in… (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated…)

Reporting from Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles -- Hundreds of supporters of the Occupy Oakland movement were gathered late Wednesday near the area where police and demonstrators clashed in a violent confrontation the night before that left several people injured and more than 100 others arrested.

Meanwhile, across the bay, Occupy San Francisco demonstrators faced off with police clad in riot gear along the Embarcadero. Officers chased after several people who had gathered along the street, but it was unclear late Wednesday whether any arrests had been made. Several blocks away, police cordoned off the Federal Reserve Bank near the Occupy San Francisco encampment.

Along the western edge of the encampment, protesters began lining up on the sidewalk. Some wore masks or bandannas to protect against the possibility of tear gas. An organizer used a bullhorn to shout out a phone number to call for legal assistance if the demonstrators were arrested.

"These are the magic words," she said. "Everybody repeat after me: I have the right to remain silent." The group shouted back: "I have the right to remain silent." She continued: "I want to see a lawyer." They responded: "I want to see a lawyer."

In Oakland, protesters converged on downtown Wednesday evening near the lawn that for 15 nights had accommodated the encampment. It was encircled by a cyclone fence, with dozens of yellowed circles visible where tents had damaged the grass.

By 7 p.m., demonstrators had quietly taken the fence down and began flooding onto the lawn. "Hey look," one man said. "We retook the plaza." There were no police in sight.

A lone protester erected a small tent where the others had stood. It bore a sign that said: "Please donate tents & sleeping bags. (No money)."

Former Army Specialist Kurt Biddle, 43, of Albany, stood in his uniform quietly holding a sign that said, "I'm Here for Scott Olsen." Olsen, 24, a veteran of the war in Iraq, was seriously injured after he was struck in the head Tuesday night by some sort of projectile.

Biddle, honorably discharged in 1991 after Desert Storm, does not know Olsen but felt compelled to honor him after watching videos that show him crumpled on the ground as an apparent object explodes near his head.

"I don't think the cops meant to hit him," Biddle said. "But they couldn't have picked a worse person to hit. He was an American war hero."

He was referring to Tuesday's violence, when officers from more than a dozen law enforcement agencies skirmished with hundreds of protesters. Officers repeatedly fired tear-gas canisters into the crowd along Broadway near City Hall, sending clouds of smoke billowing into the air. Police said they were assaulted with bottles, rocks and paint.

Protesters accused police of overreacting. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said that all allegations of police violence would be investigated.

Quan, who had long expressed support for the movement, despaired at the turn of events. "We don't want this to be about demonstrators and police," she said. "We want this to be about their cause" of jobs and justice.

The breaking point for her, she said, came as the camp's self-appointed security meted out justice by beating a man. "We've got to have better ways of keeping the peace," she said

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