Police in riot gear have moved in on May Day protesters, scattering them through downtown and leaving Frank H. Ogawa Plaza nearly empty.Police issued two dispersal orders to clear the 14th and 15th at Broadway and Telegraph Avenue and a crowd of about 300 people surged forward and started throwing bottles and other objects at police. Someone set off a flash-bang grenade and police converged on the perimeter of the plaza and told protesters to leave. Protesters held their ground for a few minutes, and police spread out through the plaza and then protesters moved elsewhere.
There is a small group of protesters left at 20th and Broadway but mostly there is calm in downtown Oakland after a day of May Day protests and mass marches that saw intermittent clashes with police.
At least 11 people had been arrested in Oakland by 9:30 p.m. on charges of vandalism, resisting arrest, failure to disperse and violation of court orders to stay away from Ogawa Plaza.
Early on, Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan sent a clear message that police would not tolerate violence or vandalism.
“If people are intent on hurting other people or property we aren’t going to tolerate that,” Jordan said in an afternoon news conference.
Jordan characterized the protesters as “a lot more assertive, a lot more aggressive,” than those at Occupy Oakland protests over the last seven months.
In San Francisco, a large group of protesters took
over the San Francisco Archdiocese at 888 Turk St., at Gough Street. Tuesday afternoon, one masked protester hurled and pipes bricks down from the rooftop onto the crowd below for several minutes, striking one man in the chest. That man received a bloody nose, but declined medical attention. Police surrounded the building and arrested the brick thrower when he came down, said San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr. Protesters shouted that the masked brick thrower didn’t represent their movement. Police did not release the man’s name or age.
In Oakland, thousands of demonstrators walked miles from the Fruitvale district and other parts of the city and arrived at Frank Ogawa Plaza at 14th and Broadway at 6:30 p.m. for an evening rally. As they made their way from the Fruitvale to San Antonio Park at 1700 Foothill Blvd. to downtown, at least five vans with police in riot gear were stationed along the route. When they arrived, they sang, danced, gave speeches and stood around.
Through out the day, protesters repeatedly scuffled with police in riot gear, who responded with tear-gas and orders to clear the streets.
A Bank of America branch near the Kaiser Center and a Bank of the West at 2127 Broadway were spray painted with graffiti and there was other minor vandalism, police said.
Some protesters said the violence detracted from the message.
“As much as I support (the Occupy movement), there are a lot of legitimate reasons why it’s not being taken seriously,” said Sunny Hamilton, 25, of Castro Valley, “It’s not the message, it’s the method.
“Activism is a beautiful thing,” she said, “but roughing up a statue or hitting someone on the head with a bottle is not.”
Oakland police are receiving aid from the California Highway Police as well as the Hayward, Newark, Fremont and Union City police and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. Jordan said officers would not hesitate to use force if necessary.
In San Francisco, the take over of the archdiocese building was the culmination of a day of protests in the city. Occupiers had been evicted from the same building last month.
“We’re not the 1 percent,” said Archdiocese of San Francisco spokesman George Wesolek. “So why are they doing this to us?”
A spokesman says the protesters are not welcome and police will be asked to remove them as soon as possible. Still, Occupiers reiterated their plans to use the space as a community center and headquarters for their movement.
“It’s great,” said Ted Gullicksen, head of the San Francisco Tenants Union, who observed the take over. “I think public agencies and the church have a duty to make sure the people’s needs are being met.”
Shortly after entering, a handful of demonstrators began cutting down the chain link fence guarding the front of the building. Others set up a food line and began feeding participants.
The crowd’s reaction to the building takeover was mixed: dozens entered the building, but others watched quietly, not responding as a young man with his face hidden behind a scarf shouted, “Out of the streets and into our home!”
Earlier in the day, in San Francisco, suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi showed up to support the protesters, saying, “It’s an important message the country should hear. This frustration doesn’t just occur today, but all year round.”
In the North Bay, the Golden Gate Ferries were shut down for several hours Tuesday, but they reopened at 2:15 p.m. Ferry workers said they have been negotiating a new contract with Golden Gate Bridge management for a year, without success.