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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism
What really happened at Occupy Oakland on Saturday January 28
For the internet, here's a first-hand account of Occupy Oakland on 1/28/2012, because the news never tells the full story. I'll tell you about the street battle, the 300+ arrests, the vandalism, the flag burning, all in the context of my experience today. This is deeper than the headlines. No major news source can do that for you. The stated goal for the day was to "move-in" to a large, abandoned, building to turn it into a social and political center. It is a long vacant convention center - the only people ever near there are the homeless who use the space outside the building as a bed. The building occupation also draws attention to the large number of abandoned and unused buildings in Oakland. The day started with a rally and a march to the proposed building. The police knew which building was the target, surrounded it, and used highly mobile units to try and divert the protest. After avoiding police lines, the group made it to one side of the building. Now, this is a very large building, and we were on a road with construction fences on both sides, and a large ditch separating us from the cops. The police fired smoke grenades into the crowd as the group neared a small path around the ditch, towards the building. They declared an unlawful assembly, and this is when the crowd broke down the construction fence. A few people broke fences to escape the situation, others because they were pissed. A couple more fences were taken down then necessary, but no valuable equipment was destroyed. They only things broken were fences.
The crowd decided to continue moving, and walked up the block to a more regular street. We decided to turn left up the street, and a police line formed to stop the march. They again declared an unlawful assembly. The protesters challenged the line, marching towards the police with our own shields in front. The shields, some small and black and a few large metal sheets. The police fired tear-gas as the group approached, and shot less-than-lethal rounds at the crowd. The protesters returned one volley of firecrackers, small projectiles, and funny things like balloons. A very weak attack, 3 officers may have been hit by something but none of them got injured. Tear gas forced many people back. The protesters quickly regrouped, and pressed the line again. This time the police opened fire with flash-grenades, tear gas, paint-filled beanbag shotguns, and rubber bullets.
After the police fired heavily on the protesters, they pushed their line forward and made a few arrests. The protesters regrouped down the block and began to march the other way (followed by police), back to Oscar Grant Plaza.
All of this occurred during the day, but it was that street battle that set the tone for the police response later in the evening. After taking a break in Oscar Grant Plaza, feeding everyone and resting, the group headed out for their evening march. Around 5pm, the group took to the street at 14th and Broadway and began a First-amendment sanctioned march around the city. The police response was very aggressive.
About 15 minutes into the march, the police attempted to kettle the protesters. This march was entirely non-violent; nobody threw shit at the cops and an unlawful assembly was never declared. . This is a very important detail. The march was 1000+ strong, conservatively. The police were very mobile, using 25+ rented 10seater vans to bring the 'troops' to the march.
For their first attempt at a kettle, the cops charged the group with police lines from the front and back. They ran towards us aggressively. Us being 1000+ peaceful marching protesters. The group was forced to move up a side street. The police moved quickly to surround the entire area; they formed a line on every street that the side street connected to. Police state status: very efficient. They kettled almost the entire protest in the park near the Fox theater. AFTERWARDS, as in after they surrounded everyone, they declared it to be an unlawful assembly BUT OFFERED NO EXIT ROUTE. Gas was used, could of been tear or smoke gas. The crowd then broke down a fence that was on one side of the kettle, and 1000 people ran across a field escaping a police kettle and embarrassing the entire police force. It was literally a massive jailbreak from a kettle. The group re-took Telegraph ave. and left the police way behind.