OAKLAND (Reuters) - Police handed out notices on Friday to anti-Wall Street protesters in Oakland warning they could be pushed out of their encampment, but demonstrators said they plan to stay.
The looming potential for a showdown came on the same day friends of a former U.S. Marine injured during clashes with police last month said he had been released from a hospital.
The Oakland police union has called for the protesters to leave after a man was shot to death near their protest site on Thursday. But Occupy Oakland demonstrators denied the shooting, which took place at a public transit station at the edge of the downtown encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza, had anything to do with their movement.
Oakland police issued a brief statement saying only that officers responding to a report of a shooting adjacent to the plaza “found a victim suffering from a gunshot wound.”
Acting Police Chief Howard Jordan later told reporters at an impromptu news conference that investigators were “still trying to put the pieces together.”
“Obviously, for someone to lose a life, that’s a big deal,” Jordan added.
With tensions rising between police and demonstrators, officers on Friday handed out notices to protesters warning they are breaking the law by -- among other things -- setting up tents, and said they are subject to removal.
Rain had driven many protesters into their tents, and the leafleting by police appeared to have been largely ignored by those at the encampment.
The Occupy movement has sprouted protests in many cities for weeks against economic inequality and what activists call Wall Street greed and government influence.
Protesters do not plan on dismantling their encampment, said organizer Cat Brooks, adding that “it’s pretty clear they’re not going to stop screaming until things change.”
Scott Olsen, the former U.S. Marine badly injured by a teargas canister during clashes between police and anti-Wall Street protesters on October 25 in Oakland, was released from the hospital, two friends said.
“He is out of the hospital as of yesterday or today, thank goodness,” Adele Carpenter, 29, told Reuters. Iraq Veterans Against the War spokeswoman Dottie Guy also confirmed Olsen’s release.
Word of Olsen’s injury reinvigorated the Occupy Wall Street movement across the country. Activists took to the streets en masse following his hospitalization, holding candlelight vigils and marches in his honor.
The Oakland Police Officers Association, in an open letter to the protesters on Friday, said officers sympathized with their movement but that the city was in a “state of emergency” and asked them to leave.
“You have sent the world a strong message; now it is time to go home. Your leaving today, peacefully, of your own free will, on the 30th day, will send a message to Oakland that you care about our citizens and respect our city,” the union said.
Protest organizers said the shooting was an example of gun violence that flares routinely in Oakland. They accused officials of intentionally leaving street lights off around the plaza after dark over the past two nights.
“People were being murdered long before the Occupy Oakland encampment happened,” said Brooks. “If police say that’s why they can’t do their job, that’s laughable.”
Additional reporting by Dan Levine, Dan Whitcomb, Mary Slosson, and Jim Christie. Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis