Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan blamed what he described as "anarchists and provocateurs" for causing a confrontation with police at a vacant building early today that resulted in more than 80 people getting arrested.
Jordan said the protests on Wednesday that occurred during a general strike organized by Occupy Oakland and other groups were "primarily peaceful" but at 11 p.m. he got word that about 200 people had taken over a building at 16th Street and Broadway that had formerly housed the Traveler's Aid Society, which had provided services to the homeless but had lost its funding.
Speaking to reporters at the city's emergency operations center, Jordan said he formulated a plan to roust the protesters from the building because he was concerned that they would set the building on fire and cause structural damage.
But he said when Oakland police, who were assisted by officers from other law enforcement agencies, stormed the building protesters started fires to try to prevent them from entering and pelted them with rocks, bottles and incendiary devices.
About 100 protesters had shields and formed a skirmish line to square off with police, Jordan said.
However, police were eventually able to enter the building after midnight and arrest many of the protesters, Jordan said.
Three Oakland police officers received minor injuries, including an officer who was bitten by one of the protesters, he said.
Five protesters also were injured, according to Jordan. He said there is a report that one of the injured protesters might have lost consciousness but that has not been confirmed.
Most of the protesters were arrested on misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and failure to disperse but one protester was arrested for a felony vandalism charge.
City of Oakland spokeswoman Karen Boyd said a small group of protesters also vandalized buildings late last night near where Occupy Oakland protesters have pitched tents for more than three weeks.
She said graffiti was spray-painted on many buildings and there were 18 broken windows on businesses in the area.
Mayor Jean Quan said on Wednesday afternoon small groups of protesters vandalized six businesses downtown, mostly banks plus a Whole Foods store.
Quan said she believes the city's response to the general strike protests, which included marching to the Port of Oakland and shutting it down temporarily, was largely successful despite the violence.
"We were trying to balance the right to protest and keep people safe and I think we did that," Quan said.
She said she believes those who created problems were only "a small and isolated group."
Quan also said she's encouraged that some Occupy Oakland protesters reached out to her office to share information about those who were acting violently.
Occupy Oakland members previously had declined Quan's offers to talk with her.
She said, "That communication must remain" and she wants to talk with Occupy Oakland people.
But when Quan was asked how she planned to reach a peaceful resolution with Occupy Oakland who are still camping out in the plaza in front of city hall, she said, "I don't know" and "I wish I knew."
But she said, "We have an opening now" in which she can talk to the group.
City Administrator Deanna Santana said Fire Department officials found several violations of city health and safety regulations when they inspected the Occupy Oakland encampment recently and they were "met with some hostility" when they tried to address the problem.
Santana said city officials are still calculating all of their costs in responding to the Occupy Oakland and encampment the past three weeks but last week alone there were $700,000 in extra police expenses.
Several Occupy Oakland members said at a meeting today that they disapprove of the violence that occurred late last night.
At Tully's Coffee at 14th Street and Broadway, which had several windows broken, an Occupy Oakland member posted a sign that said, "We're Sorry. This Does Not Represent Us."
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