Several hundred police officers in riot gear from ten nearby law enforcement agencies swept through Occupy Oakland’s encampment shortly before 5 a.m. Tuesday morning. Minutes later 85 people were arrested.
The arrests took place in front of Oakland’s City Hall. City officials said they had been forced to clear the encampments because of concerns about sanitation and “escalating violence,” Mayor Jean Quan, who is Washington D.C., told local radio station KGO-AM.
Early reports from police say the raids, which began about 4:45 a.m., went smoothly, with all protesters cleared out of the tent city Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in less than 30 minutes. No injuries to protesters or officers were reported.
But the morning wasn’t a quiet one at the downtown plaza in front of Oakland City Hall. Police used tear gas and bean bag rounds to subdue protesters, who themselves used firecrackers and a fire extinguisher to confuse police.
As hundreds of officers surrounded the camp, several protesters sneaked behind City Hall and pulled out some police barricades that had apparently been left out, using them to protect the camp, said Max Allstadt, a West Oakland resident who had gone down to the camp to see what would happen Tuesday morning. …
Police in riot gear, armed with billy clubs, entered the camp and overturned tents and the campers’ wooden stalls quickly. What was left looked like a hurricane-struck refugee camp. They ripped up dozens of cardboard signs, overturned a couch and when it was over there were scraps of carpet, personal belongings and trash all over the plaza. Tear gas was used, as well as bean bag rounds, to subdue protesters according to Police Chief Howard Jordan.
Police line up as they prepare to enter Occupy Oakland campsite. (Image by SMTY)
“I am very pleased with the way things went,” interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said at a news conference, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “In the end, I think we allowed people to exercise their rights to free speech and free assembly.”
“They can certainly exercise their free speech rights from 6 in the morning to 10 at night,” Mayor Quan said. “But at night we had people who were hurt, that we were not allowed to treat and we had, you know, several criminal activities. … And so it was clear that we had to close it down over the weekend.”
“It will probably take us a good amount of time to clean up the park before it can be occupied by anybody,” Quan added.
Demonstrators celebrated Occupy Oakland’s two-week “birthday” on Monday.