Well, scuffles erupted in the afternoon as activists from the Occupy movement tried to take over a shuttered downtown convention center in Oakland. That sparked cat-and-mouse battles that lasted well into the night in a city that has seen confrontations between police and protesters boil over repeatedly.
"Occupy Oakland has got to stop using Oakland as its playground," Mayor Jean Quan (who has come under criticism for the city's handling of the Occupy movement) said at a press conference. "Once again, a violent splinter group of the Occupy movement is engaging in violent actions against Oakland," she said, speaking as officers in riot gear were still lined up against demonstrators in downtown intersections.
City Council President Larry Reid said a group of protesters broke into City Hall, damaging exhibits and burning a U.S. flag. To me it says all it needs to when the protesters burn an American Flag. It does not matter much what the protest is about, when they do that, they lose any sympathy from me.
Occupy Oakland organizers had earlier vowed to take over the empty downtown convention center to establish a headquarters, hoping to revitalize a movement against economic inequality that lost momentum after police cleared protest camps from cities across the country late last year. A move by authorities which, in my humble opinion, took way too long.
A police spokesman said more than 200 people had been arrested during the day following altercations that began when activists tried to tear down a chain-link fence surrounding the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center.
Police in riot gear moved in, firing smoke grenades, tear gas and bean-bag projectiles to drive the crowd back.
"Officers were pelted with bottles, metal pipe, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices and burning flares," the Oakland Police Department said in a statement. "Oakland Police Department deployed smoke and tear gas.The city of Oakland welcomes peaceful forms of assembly and freedom of speech but acts of violence, property destruction and overnight lodging will not be tolerated".
Hundreds of demonstrators regrouped and marched through downtown Oakland, where they were repeatedly confronted by police in riot gear. Police at several points fired flash-bang grenades into the crowd and swung batons at protesters. A group of demonstrators ultimately made their way to City Hall, where they brought out a U.S. flag and set it on fire before scattering ahead of advancing officers.
Several hundred people remained in the streets well after dark, facing off against lines of riot police holding batons who demonstrators sometimes taunted as "pigs."
Elsewhere, the National Park Service said on Friday it would bar Occupy protesters in the nation's capital, one of the few big cities where Occupy encampments survive, from camping in two parks where they have been living since October. That order, which takes effect on Monday, was seen as a blow to one of the highest-profile chapters of the movement.
As a student of history it is hard for me to understand why so many of the protests, not just Occupy Wall Street but all around the world, turn to violence so often. It always turns public opinion against them. They need to take a page out of Martin Luther King and Gandhi's play books. Peaceful demonstrations combined with civil disobedience always gets better, more lasting results. The injury and destruction suffered by non-involved bystanders and businesses automatically results in creating enemies of whatever movement organized the protest.
I have personally witnessed 3 protests which turned violent and became full blown riots. They are an ugly, ugly affair. We, as a people, should be better then that and protest organizers should be smarter then that.
Live Long and Prosper...