OAKLAND, Calif. – Before dawn this morning, Nov. 14, police in riot gear moved in to evict Occupy Oakland campers from their tent city in a plaza in front of City Hall. In contrast to the eviction late last month, no violence was reported involving either police or campers who had remained on site.
Police said 32 people were arrested, including nine from Oakland. Among them were several pastors who supported the protest. Oakland police were backed by several area police departments.
During the police action several hundred community and union supporters massed peacefully at an intersection just outside the plaza.
Occupy Oakland participants and supporters said they plan a 4 p.m. rally at the city’s main library.
Many protesters had already left the camp before the eviction began. Participants vowed to continue the protest movement. Some said they would seek to reoccupy the plaza.
The action followed a series of warnings to vacate issued over the weekend, the last one specifying that overnight camping would not be allowed in any of the city’s parks. However, community organizations helped work out an agreement that nearby Snow Park, site of a much smaller encampment, would remain available temporarily while protesters seek a longer-term space. The city also made special efforts to provide shelter accommodations for homeless people who had joined the encampment.
The warnings to vacate followed the Nov. 10 murder on the edge of the campsite of a young man who had reportedly spent several nights at the encampment. City officials cited health and safety concerns as well as “obstruction of free use” of public property.
Many observers have credited Occupy Oakland with creating a functioning community with a kitchen that fed several hundred people each day, a library, workshops, and first aid facilities staffed by volunteer nurses. But widespread nighttime drug and alcohol use, sexual harassment and the occurrence of violent incidents have also been reported by people who stayed overnight at the camp.
A highly successful mass day of action Nov. 2was followed by nighttime incidents in which a small group of protesters occupied a building near the camp and vandalized neighboring buildings, and a few attacked police who sought to remove them. Other protesters sought to prevent violence, and helped clean up afterward.
At a press conference after the eviction, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said the encampment was removed “because Occupy Oakland has taken on a different direction from the national movement. It was no longer about the abuses of the financial institutions, foreclosures and the unemployed.”
She cited “repeated violence” at the camp including the Nov. 10 murder, the effect on downtown small businesses with a resulting cost in jobs, and the drain on city resources needed to serve Oakland residents whom she called “part of the 99 percent.” She also noted that Oakland is one of the few cities where a representative committee from the Occupy movement had not been formed to meet with city officials.
Meanwhile, University of California students are ratcheting up their protests against tuition and fee increases at the same time funds are cut across-the-boards for public education. Efforts to set up a small, peaceful tent camp on the UC Berkeley campus last week were met with a forceful police crackdown, including 39 arrests.
Occupy Oakland protesters planned to join a strike and day of action on the Berkeley campus Nov. 15. University protesters will also gather at the UC regents’ meeting in San Francisco Nov. 16.
Photo: Police hold a demonstrator at an encampment for the Occupy Wall Street movement in Oakland, Calif., Nov. 14. Police in Oakland began clearing out a weeks-old encampment early Monday after issuing several warnings to Occupy demonstrators. (Paul Sakuma/AP)