Police used tear gas on hundreds of demonstrators Tuesday night in what became a pitched battle to control the Oakland city center. The plaza had been cleared by police in the predawn Tuesday after being held for more than two weeks by protesters affiliated with the national Occupy movement.
By late Tuesday evening, police had fired tear gas and bean bags at least four times at protesters who were attempting to reclaim the plaza. The tactics temporarily dispersed the crowd, but hundreds of protesters continued to regroup, at times hurling paint, bottles, rocks and what police described as "chemical agents."
Two officers were reported injured. According to police, 102 people were arrested — 97 when the plaza was cleared Tuesday morning and another five during the evening violence.
This YouTube video shows the tear gas grenades being fired into the crowd:
Howard Jordan, Oakland's interim police chief, said police decided to use tear gas after being attacked by demonstrators.
"Several officers have been assault, doused with hazardous materials, paint and bottles," Jordan said.
Despite the violence, many protesters encouraged others to stay peaceful, and there were no reports of the kind of looting that occurred last year when hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the same location after former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting of Oscar Grant.
A civil rights lawyer, Shahid Bottar of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, told protesters: "Don't throw shit. Don't throw shit." One responded: "Stop doing the cops' job."
Tuesday's protests followed what had been a largely peaceful police operation to clear Frank H. Ogawa Plaza early Tuesday morning. About 400 police officers from throughout the Bay Area dismantled the tent city that had developed after Occupy Oakland moved in 15 days earlier.
In the late afternoon, however, hundreds of protesters regrouped for a march in what developed into an attempt to retake the city center from authorities. The crowd, which swelled to about 1,000 people, consisted not only of hundreds of people from the Occupy movement but also local union members.
A San Francisco Chronicle reporter tweeted a picture of a protester standing on top of a California Highway Patrol car whose rear windshield was smashed.
The tear gas was first deployed at about 7:45 p.m. after police issued several warnings that the gathering was unlawful and ordered the crowd to disperse for a second time.
A Bay Citizen reporter heard four pops before the canisters landed and the tear gas poured out, wafting into the screaming and fleeing crowd.
BART closed the 12th Street Oakland City Center station shortly before 8 p.m. to prevent passengers from being exposed.
As the violence escalated, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan had not made a statement and was nowhere to be seen. Earlier in the day, Quan told KGO Radio that she was monitoring the events from Washington D.C. Jordan said at a press conference Tuesday evening that Quan was rushing home.
After the tear gas was first deployed, hundreds of people marched to Telegraph Avenue in front of the Fox Theater. Protesters changed course as police blocked their path and chanted: "The people united will never be defeated."
Some chanted, "If you give us back the plaza, you'd be done by now."
By Wednesday morning, the downtown was quiet again. Police officers, some wearing riot gear, stood by metal barricades as people on their way to work stared at the remaining wreckage.
The demonstrators said they planned to hold a meeting, known as a General Assembly, in the plaza at 6 p.m. on Wednesday — and would do so every night until the city "relinquishes" the plaza.
Police ordered the protesters to leave the City Hall area for the first time at around 6 p.m. Tuesday, and the crowd initially complied. The group briefly gathered at Snow Park, site of the smaller of two encampments that were broken up by police early Tuesday morning.
Police presence was less prevalent at the smaller park and after a brief discussion, the group decided to continue the march and return to 14th Street and Broadway.
Shortly before the officers deployed the tear gas, members of the National Nurses United, which is affiliated with the California Nurses Association, handed out a list of demands to some of the protesters. The demands included "health care for all," "jobs with dignity," "quality public education" and "a healthy environment."
Officers at Frank Ogawa Plaza again ordered the crowd to disperse before deploying tear gas and smoke grenades. It was unclear whether anyone was injured during the demonstration.
In this video by The Bay Citizen's Queena Kim, a protester lies face down in front of a line of officers wearing gas masks:
Between 400 and 500 Occupy Oakland protesters began the march Tuesday at the main branch of the Oakland Public Library.
Veteran activist Krystof Lopaur of No Justice No BART told the gathering on the library steps that the plan was to start marching to Frank Ogawa Plaza.
At around 5:20 p.m., the crowd began to make its way downtown.
"We're going to reclaim what was already ours," Lopaur said, drawing loud cheers from the crowd.
A large group of demonstrators stopped to rally near a police station at Seventh and Washington streets at around 6 p.m. Confrontations broke out between officers and protesters and the police deployed smoke grenades, which caused loud noises and filled the area with smoke.
Shortly before that confrontation, small skirmishes broke out near Eighth and Washington streets. Some protesters threw paint on the officers and minor altercations occurred. At least two protesters were detained during that confrontation.
This YouTube video shows a confrontation between protesters and police:
The Occupy Oakland encampment began on Oct. 10. City Administrator Deanna Santana said the city arrested people starting at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday because conditions had deteriorated and the city could no longer maintain public health and safety and crowd control.
City officials said there were reports of sexual offenses, fighting, public drinking and intoxication and other problems at the encampment.
Jack Fleck, 64, an Oakland resident, was standing near the 12th Street station watching the protest Tuesday evening. He had seen police in the same area Tuesday morning, and said he thought the money spent evicting the encampment was excessive.
“Look how much this is costing,” he said. “It was a peaceful assembly. They were respectful, even respectful of the Oakland oak tree. It looked to me like it was a democratic assembly. They were putting together committees.”
“Then the city of Oakland had to come down with a hammer,” he said.
Bay City News and information from other news outlets contributed to this report.