Sunday, January 29, 2012



That would be the Oakland PD...

So, I'm trying to have a relaxing day, clear my head of everything, right? Supposed to rest up for the big week. Went to SF, saw some sights, generally tried not to think about much. I'm coming home, reading e-mails on the train, and I'm alerted to some trouble happening at Occupy. Something about tear gas and rubber bullets being used earlier in the day. Ogawa Plaza is filled when I get there - and no cops. Very odd, because usually they are all over the place.

Occupy decides they are going to try and take another vacant building, and they start to move. Completely shut down the intersection at Broadway and 14th - a major intersection in downtown Oakland. Start marching down Broadway. I tag along, even though the light is starting to leave the sky and I know I won't get much of anything in the way of pictures.

One lone motorcycle cop is set up at 17th Street to stop traffic from coming up Broadway - and then here come the white vans out of the side streets, filled with police. The march turns down 16th, and heads to San Pablo instead. It's about this time I decide to turn back and head home; I don't know where they are going, and I didn't feel like walking in the dark...

So I turn around, and there's the line of police, trailing the march. Not wanting to be arrested, I stayed with the crowd, which marched to a park on 19th. At the park, there is a plaza with statues and art at the head of a grassy area. Chain link fencing has been set-up on the grass section to either a) keep people out so they won't camp, or b) keep people out so they can plant more grass or something. Don't know, the ground is a mess. Anyhoo, the cops had smartly blocked all four streets leading into this park/plaza area - and the crowd was trapped at the plaza section. No way out. And they panic.

The police helicopter above starts lighting the area, which freaked people out even more. Tried to push down the fence, and the cops rushed towards them, rubber bullet guns drawn. Protesters retreat. Behind me, a couple of flash bang grenades go off, and the tear gas starts. Didn't even realize what was happening until my eyes and throat started burning. Nasty stuff. Got away from there and back to the fence, where a larger crowd was now pushing the thing down.


And I did.

They pushed a 2nd fence down at the other end of the park too, and the crowd was free, back on the street. Started marching down Telegraph. I slipped away and got the hell out of there.

No Pulitzer for me, but no zip-tie handcuffs either, and for that I am very grateful. They are arresting a lot of people tonight, and this has now made the national news. As I write this at nearly 10pm PST, the helicopters are still circling out there, and the Twitter feed says something is happening back at 14th and Broadway...

How was your day?

Update 5:00am: Leading the national news stories on some of my sites:

Here's a Reuters photo of the scene I described above.

Reuters: "Police fire tear gas at Oakland, 200 arrested"
New York Times "Occupy Protesters and Police Clash in Oakland
CBS News "300 arrested in Occupy Oakland protests"
USA Today (AP): "Oakland police arresting about 300 'Occupy' protesters"

Some jackass burned a flag, and of course that incident is making the stories, even though it was an isolated event - and there is the problem.

There are a few in this crowd that seem to want confrontation with the cops, but it's certainly not the majority. The police are responding by arresting everyone in sight, journalists included. Someone from Mother Jones and (I believe) the SF Chronicle got caught up in the melee according to the Twitter feed. I had heard of such things before, and that's why I stayed with the crowd when I saw that line of police behind me, blocking my escape.

Are there some jerks in this movement? Yes. Are the police over-reacting and using tactics that inflame the situation? Yes. The end result is escalation of tensions, leading to what you read above.

They are supposed to go at it again today. Stay tuned.


Crowd gathers at the Ogawa amphitheater.


Social concerns.


Directing traffic on 14th. Crowd is moving into the street at this point.


Intersection of 14th and Broadway, the heart of downtown Oakland, filled with people. Ogawa Plaza is behind and to the right.


Marching down San Pablo, which led to the first picture at the top of the page. At this point it's getting really dark, and I didn't get much after that. All the running and tear gas didn't help the situation either.

Moral of the story: What was planned to be a relaxing and restful day ended up with me getting tear-gassed. Just goes to show you, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans....