OAKLAND, Calif. – In a massive pre-dawn raid today, Oct. 25, Oakland and other area police evicted hundreds of Occupy Oakland protesters from their two-week-old encampment in front of City Hall and a smaller camp in a nearby park.
Protesters say they plan to regroup near the city’s main library at 4 p.m.
At a morning press conference, city officials cited health and safety violations, including fire hazards, sanitation problems, property damage, improper food storage, worsening of an already existing rat infestation, refusal to admit emergency medical personnel to the plaza, and some incidents of violence.
City Manager Deanna Santana reiterated the city’s commitment to free speech, and said after cleanup the plaza will be available to protesters from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day, though camping will not be allowed.
Mayor Jean Quan, in Washington D.C. seeking federal funds for the city, told KGO-TV she had been in communication with city officials before the campers were evicted. She reiterated the city’s commitment to free speech, adding, “We’ve been trying to talk with the Occupy Oakland people for the last two weeks. Last week it was pretty clear there was escalating violence.”
Quan added, “At night we had people who were hurt, that we were not allowed to treat, and we had several criminal activities … and so it was clear that we had to close it down over the weekend.”
The encampment began Oct. 10. The city had begun issuing eviction warnings during its second week.
An Oct. 22 visit to the plaza showed a picture quite different from that cited by the city. The area, holding over 100 tents, appeared neat and clean, with systematic trash collection and no apparent food waste.
But a supporter who stayed overnight the night before the raid reported drinking and other substance use was rampant, several fights occurred and sexual harassment was a major problem.
In their daily general assemblies, occupiers had discussed among themselves the need to cope with problems in the camp including cleanliness, violence and sexual harassment, and expressed confidence they could take needed actions.
After having been unwilling to talk with city officials, the occupiers decided the officials could come to the general assembly and take part like any other speaker in the camp’s consensus process. Some occupiers had urged a more proactive approach to talking with the city.
Over the weekend, community observers had inspected the encampment, noting that efforts were being made to improve food storage, that waste disposal was systematic, and that the rat problem could be dealt with through temporary measures.
Many in the community, including the Alameda Labor Council and many unions as well as community organizations, have supported Occupy Oakland. The California Nurses Association staffed the camp’s first aid clinic, and the Oakland Education Association funded the porta-potties.
In a late morning press conference, Alameda Labor Council head Josie Camacho called the shutdown “an unprovoked raid on peaceful protesters,” and called on the city to release those arrested, drop the charges, and restore the occupation “or otherwise reverse this silencing of the voice of the majority of Americans.”
At the city’s press conference, newly appointed Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said “hundreds” of officers had been involved, and about 75 arrests were made, with most being charged with misdemeanor offenses. Other observers put arrests at around 90. Jordan said no injuries had occurred to campers or to police. He added that police use of tear gas and non-lethal projectiles would be investigated.
While many Oaklanders support Occupy Oakland, Mayor Quan and city officials have been under increasing pressure from some residents who are demanding more police. In recent days an effort has been made to recall her over this issue.