Oakland protesters plan march, mayor apologizes

OAKLAND, Calif Sat Oct 29, 2011 12:50am EDT

A soldier kneels with an American flag in front of a candle-lit memorial in support of Scott Olsen at City Hall in Oakland October 27, 2011.  REUTERS/Kim White

A soldier kneels with an American flag in front of a candle-lit memorial in support of Scott Olsen at City Hall in Oakland October 27, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kim White

Related Topics

OAKLAND, Calif (Reuters) - Calls for a general strike in Oakland by protesters against economic inequality gathered force on Friday as activists voted to march to the city's busy port next week to disrupt cargo traffic there.

The Oakland demonstrators allied with the so-called Occupy Wall Street movement decided on the port action during a "general assembly" meeting by hundreds of activists gathered at an outdoor plaza near City Hall.

The group already had called for a citywide strike to be held next Wednesday, urging workers and students to stay at home for the day, to protest what they have called "brutal and vicious" treatment of demonstrators by the police and city officials.

But marching to the Port of Oakland, the nation's fourth busiest container port by volume, raised the prospect of transforming what essentially has been a stationary protest confined to a city square into a large-scale disruption of commerce.

"At 5 p.m. (on Wednesday) the strikers are going to march from downtown Oakland to the Port of Oakland to shut it down," said Tim Simmons, an Occupy Oakland organizer, after the group voted by acclamation.

Plans for the port march emerged a day after Mayor Jean Quan, booed out of the square by protesters on Thursday night, apologized for a clash between police and protesters this week that badly injured an ex-Marine.

Quan, who has drawn criticism for her handling of tensions caused by the Occupy Oakland protesters, said in a written statement that she had met with ex-Marine Scott Olsen and his parents and was concerned about his recovery.

Olsen, 24, who served two tours of duty in Iraq, was struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired on Tuesday by police, protest organizers said. His injury has become a rallying cry for the Occupy protesters nationwide.

City officials have not said how they believe Olsen was hurt, but police opened an investigation into the incident.

A spokesman for Highland General Hospital in Oakland said Olsen remained in fair condition on Friday, upgraded from critical one day earlier, and was visiting with his parents.

"I am deeply saddened about the outcome on Tuesday," Quan said in the statement, which she also delivered from her office in a videotape posted online. Shouts of protesters rallying outside City Hall were heard in the background of the video.

"Ultimately, it was my responsibility, and I apologize for what happened," she said, concluding: "We can change America, but we must unite and not divide our city. I hope we can work together."

The disturbances in Oakland have made it one of the hubs of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began in New York City last month to protest economic disparities, high unemployment and government bailouts of major banks.

Makeshift encampments sprouting up in cities across the country have forced local officials to walk a fine line between allowing peaceful assembly and addressing concerns about trespassing, noise, sanitation and safety.

CATCALLS AND BOOS

Quan had paid a visit late Thursday night to a rally and speakers' forum organized by protesters at Frank Ogawa Plaza, a public square adjacent to the mayor's office that has been the fulcrum of demonstrations.

She was greeted with a hail of angry boos and catcalls and hastily retreated with her staff back to City Hall, followed by protesters shouting, "Get out, go home!" and "Resign!"

In her videotaped statement, Quan said she was "asking" protesters to refrain from camping overnight in the plaza.

Police forcibly dismantled the encampment on Tuesday, and protesters were marching to retake it when Olsen was injured.

Protesters reclaimed the plaza on Wednesday night and police have kept their distance since then.

On Friday, hundreds of protesters returned again to the square for a rally attended by documentary filmmaker and liberal activist Michael Moore, who was loudly cheered as he addressed the crowd.

"We've seen the militarization of our local police departments because Congress has spent billions to buy them armaments ... even spying systems to prepare them for what they believe is the inevitable," Moore said. "Sooner or later the people aren't going to take it any more."

(Additional reporting by Emmett Berg; Writing by Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Greg McCune and Peter Bohan)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (5)
Fern wrote:
How long before some crazed politician demands they be bulldozed, Tiananmen Square-style?

Oct 29, 2011 1:27am EDT  --  Report as abuse
nick78 wrote:
How long before protesters start rioting, attacking police and put people who they think make “good copy” at the front for camera. If you break the law and someone gets hurt in the process, think whose fault it really is?

Push youngest/oldest to the front lines….This is a battle over images, not just over the park.
- Charles Lenchner, Occupy Wall Street activist, Oct. 13, 2011

If the police overreact (as they are likely to) and we take the blows, and it is recorded, it will go worldwide and further tremendously galvanize the movement.
- Tarak Kauff, Veterans for Peace organizer, Oct. 13, 2011

Oct 29, 2011 11:58am EDT  --  Report as abuse
MatthewBrown wrote:
Egypt has a population of 81 million people. 81 MILLION. The highest attendance of all the protests against the government is somewhere below or around the 10 million figure. That is 1/8th of the country demanding the removal of the government, and America pressured and pressured them to step down, citing the people’s will as what the government was bound to. I wonder if our government will take that same position if a similar fraction of our population is involved with or agrees with these protests. Or will they simply say, that’s not enough of the people and flip their position like politicians are so prone to do.

Oct 29, 2011 1:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

A tourist takes a plunge as she swims at Ngapali Beach, a popular tourist site, in the Thandwe township of the Rakhine state, October 6, 2013. Picture taken October 6, 2013. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (MYANMAR - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR3FOI0

Where do you want to go?

We look at when to take trips, budget considerations and the popularity of multigenerational family travel.   Video