Hundreds Arrested in Oakland, Cities Across Country March in Solidarity
Following the mass arrest of protesters in Oakland this weekend, Occupiers in cities across the country participated in solidarity marches Sunday evening in New York, Philadelphia, Denver and Los Angeles, among other places.
Those arrested in California included six journalists, such as Mother Jones' Gavin Aronsen and Susie Cagle, whose work I've referenced in this blog several times and who contributes Occupy field reports to my show, Citizen Radio.
Protesters waged an unsuccessful afternoon effort to occupy a former convention center before the 1,000+ individuals decided to head back to their former encampment outside City Hall.
Aronsen reports at MJ:
On the way, they clashed with officers, advancing down a street with makeshift shields of corrugated metal and throwing objects at a police line. Officers responded with smoke grenades, tear gas, and bean bag projectiles. After protesters regrouped, they marched through downtown as police pursued and eventually contained a few hundred of them in an enclosed space outside a YMCA. Some entered the gym and were arrested inside.
As soon as it became clear that I would be kettled with the protesters, I displayed my press credentials to a line of officers and asked where to stand to avoid arrest. In past protests, the technique always proved successful. But this time, no officer said a word. One pointed back in the direction of the protesters, refusing to let me leave. Another issued a notice that everyone in the area was under arrest.
The other journalists arrested were Kristen Hanes of KGO Radio (credentialed by San Francisco police, but not OPD,) Vivian Ho of the San Francisco Chronicle, who did have official OPD credentials, John C. Osborn of the East Bay Express, and Yael Chanoff of the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
Aronsen describes his arrest:
As I waited in line to be processed and transported to jail, Ho approached me with an officer who had released her from custody. The two explained to my arresting officer that I was with the media. "Oh, he's with the media?" the officer replied, although I had already repeatedly told him as much and my credentials had been plainly visible all night. He appeared ready to release me, until a nearby officer piped in, without explanation: "He's getting arrested."
The Twittersphere erupted over the weekend when footage from Oakland started rolling in showing a city under police lockdown. This still lifted from @OakFoSho's livestream shows rows of protesters cuffed and waiting their imminent arrest as they're surrounded by officers.
Oakland protesters once again criticized police for their heightened response that included the use of flash bang grenades, tear gas, and beanbag projectiles. OPD came under harsh national scrutiny in the fall when the overzealous usage of projectiles resulted in the injuries of peaceful protesters, including veteran Scott Olsen.
A protester named Kevin described to me what he calls the "bloodthirsty" behavior of police. According to the young protester, a "really big" officer (helmet number 881) started screaming at Kevin, yelling, "Come on! Come over here! Come get some!"
In New York City, protesters turned out Sunday evening for a solidarity march to express support for Occupy West.
A young woman named Jodie, originally from San Francisco, joined the march in honor of her friends who were arrested at Occupy Oakland.
"I hope we can generally raise awareness about the movement. It's really hard now that there's not a centralized location to keep up the media coverage and keep it in people's minds," said Jodie.
Jodie expressed her uncertainty about the role of the black bloc in Occupy's actions.
"I think it's a thin line between passive action and direct action tonight, and I think there's a lot of anger and feelings about what's been going on. I'm on the fence about the best way to express those, but hopefully it will be expressed and awareness will be raised."
Long-time Occupy organizer, Nicole Carty, was also in attendance. Carty described the Oakland footage as "insane," but added that mass arrests of its kind have "been regularized."
Carty is one of the activists featured in Occupy Wall Street's official thank you video to its supporters (Carty's appearance begins at :56).
It was her appearance in this video, along with other widely circulated Occupy Youtube clips, that placed her in the position of default ambassador for the movement whenever strangers have questions about OWS. It's this position that also gives Carty unique insight into the public's excitement about Occupy returning with a vengeance in the spring.
"Me and my friend were riding the train and some guy we didn't know at all was like, 'Hey, I recognize you from that video. Occupy, it's coming back, right?' And we said, 'yeah, we're building up for the spring.' So I think it's not just an illusion or a hype that we're spouting. I think people out there are really excited and eager to come back. It's cold. I get it, but I believe it. It's not hype. It's true. Everyone is really excited for the ability and the call to get back on the streets." (photo by Allison Kilkenny)
That excitement was buzzing in the protesters as they marched from Washington Square, and several activists expressed to me that the energy in the march felt like the "old days" of Zuccotti. In particular, there was tremendous anger toward the police, and some Occupy organizers attempted several times to squash the chant "Fuck the police" emanating from other participants.
A new chant quickly emerged: "Racist, sexist, anti-gay. NYPD, go away!" (photo by Allison Kilkenny)
The goal of last night's march seemed to be the disruption of the procession itself because a destination was never announced. Several times, protesters took to the streets and traded words with police officers, who I witnessed violently shove Occupiers back onto the sidewalk. During one scuffle on 14th street, a young medic claimed she was punched in the back by police, and I saw an NYPD officer rush to receive medical attention after apparently being struck in the back of the head.
In total, twelve protesters were arrested during the march, which concluded on 9th street just east of Avenue B in front of an empty former school building that previously housed the Charas / El Bohio Cultural Community Center before the group was evicted ten years ago by the developer, Gregg L. Singer.
“This was once a vibrant community center,” a man said as others pounded on a tall plywood fence that sealed the empty building off from the sidewalk. “The people in Oakland wanted to create a community center.”
A security guard emerged from inside the building and peered down from an elevated plaza at those outside. A man tried to clamber over the fence, but police officers quickly pulled him down and arrested him as a helicopter with a spotlight hovered overhead.
By 10:30 p.m., most of the marchers had moved to Tompkins Square. One man strummed a mandolin. Another tapped on a drum. Several others stretched out on an asphalt pathway, using backpacks as pillows and gazing at the sky as a line of police officers stood at a nearby entrance to the park.