Protesters concluded a circuitous march through downtown Oakland that followed a day of protests today to mark the anniversary of the day police first cleared the Occupy Oakland encampment. Cheryl Hurd reports.
Protesters concluded a circuitous march through downtown Oakland that followed a day of protests today to mark the anniversary of the day police first cleared the Occupy Oakland encampment.
The march began shortly after 7 p.m. and snaked through Oakland streets, including through Chinatown and near Lake Merritt.
Several times protesters found their way blocked by lines of police, first at the intersection of Telegraph and Grand avenues, blocking their way towards Lake Merritt, and again preventing them from marching to the Police Headquarters at Seventh and Washington streets.
The only instance of violence reported today was near the police station, where police said that a masked man threw a rock towards lines of riot police.
Following the march protesters reconverged at Frank Ogawa Plaza, where they were setting up a screen to watch movies into the night.
Some protesters had suggested that there may be an attempt to camp out in the plaza, as protesters did last year, but police were standing in the grassy area of the plaza tonight amid signs warning people to keep off fresh grass planted there over recent months.
The between 150 and 200 protesters began gathering there starting early this afternoon, and their numbers steadily increased throughout the day.
Oakland police Sgt. Henderson Jordan said police were stationed at the plaza since about noon today.
Small groups of two or three police officers were scattered throughout the plaza, with about 30 officers there in total, and while they displayed no unified front, they were always in eyeshot.
One protester, Craig Casey, 36, of Oakland, said today, "I feel like the police presence here is overblown. It's unnecessary and intended to intimidate."
But the demonstrations were almost entirely peaceful throughout today and tonight, in stark contrast to the scene a year ago, when protesters returned to the plaza after their encampment there was forcibly evicted early that morning, leading to dozens of arrests.
Hundreds of protesters returned later that night to try to re-enter the barricaded plaza, and police deployed tear gas, smoke grenades and bean bag weapons during the confrontations that followed.
Protester Scott Olsen, who was critically injured by a weapon fired by Oakland police that day, returned to the plaza this afternoon but said he would not be staying overnight.
"I'm not going to let them keep me home. I'm going to continue to come to these beautiful events," Olsen said.
Olsen walked with a cane today because a car hit him last week near the corner of 14th Avenue and International Boulevard, he said.
Regarding last year's conflicts, Olsen said that he is unsatisfied with the city's response to the violence.
"The police, the City of Oakland, Mayor (Jean) Quan, all need to be held accountable," he said. "They can't control their officers."
The demonstrations also attracted a few counter-protesters, though it was unclear if either were connected to a flier distributed last week threatening violence against Occupy protesters who may commit vandalism.
A brief conflict with a counter-protester that showed up at Frank Ogawa Plaza broke out shortly before 5:30 p.m., but did not result in violence.
The counter-protester, dressed in a white robe and mask, ran through the plaza holding a sign with a message critical of Occupy Oakland.
Protesters chased him, yelling at him and telling him to leave. Jordan said it appeared that the protester was trying to emulate the appearance of a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Another counter-protester showed up with a sign claiming to be from the California Constitution Party. His sign carried the messages, "Occupy attacks working people" and "Occupy says what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine."
Members of a group calling itself the Fresh Juice Party, which holds regular "Chalkupy" events in Oakland and other cities, created a chalk drawing on the ground in the plaza depicting a yellow teddy bear with a Cupid-like bow and arrow squaring off against a shirtless man with a gun.
The drawing was titled "Cupid versus Stupid" and included the phrase, "Day with No Violence."
A small, painted wooden sign resting at the base of a nearby flagpole read "Welcome to Oscar Grant Plaza" -- the name given to the plaza by protesters.
Additional signs were hung up in the plaza reading "Long Live October Revolution" and "Death to Imperialism."
Protesters held a general assembly meeting prior to tonight's march discussing such topics as state repression, racism and patriarchy and bridges to a broader movement.
Occupy Oakland member Jesse Smith said tonight's plan is not to create a long-term encampment, and that demonstrators would likely clear out of the plaza tonight.
Many downtown businesses remained open this afternoon, but the downtown YMCA planed to close early as a precaution. Activities scheduled at the YMCA after 4 p.m. were canceled.
A Chase Bank at 14th Street and Broadway and a Bank of America located near downtown boarded their windows during the protest, but no incidents of vandalism were reported.