As anticipated, it got unruly at Occupy Oakland last night. Following a peaceful general strike, things seemed to be calming down, but the riot police from numerous Bay Area departments had to be summoned to address the chaos that ended with around 500 people in the street at least 60 people in handcuffs. Last night’s riot seemed to identify a split within the movement that is far too dramatic to go unnoticed.
General Strike Day in Oakland was orderly for the most part, drawing over 7,000 participants from all walks of life and even gaining the support of a local Men’s Warehouse. However, a smaller group calling themselves the “Blac Bloc” seemed to try their hardest to outshine the efforts of the majority through acts of vandalism. Determined to stay on pace with the goals of the protest, members of the crowd did their best to stop them from smashing windows and defacing banks and a Whole Foods with graffiti. Despite their good-natured efforts, they weren’t successful.
Although conservative crow Michelle Malkin reported that Occupy Oakland as a whole was responsible for the destruction, interim Oakland Police Department Chief Howard Jordan even noted that the anarchy was caused by a faction who only wanted to seek and destroy. Members of Occupy Oakland attempted to remedy the damage by cleaning the graffiti from the Wells Fargo Bank and pacing a sign saying “We are better than this” on a broken window at a Chase Bank.
The general strike succeeded in shutting down the Port of Oakland by yesterday evening, but SFist noted that a more aggressive crowd had made its way to the protest. This was just before the pandemonium began, as two protesters were hit by man in a Mercedes (typical, right?) who was pissed off by protesters and used his Benz as a weapon. The Mercury News reports that the driver switched seats with his female passenger when the car stopped near the other end of the intersection. Talk about the definitive bitch move. Anyway, it was rumored that one of the protesters was killed by the accident, but that was false. Both protesters suffered leg and ankle injuries, and police let the spineless driver go. That’s amazing, but we’ll just assume they were gearing up for what they figured would take place later.
As the night fell, rowdy protesters gathered at the same City Hall spot they were kicked out of last week. After storming an empty building used by a nonprofit organization known as the Traveler’s Aid Society, protesters constructed a barricade to keep police out while others hung a banner that read “Occupy Everything.” By 1 a.m., sleeping protesters were awakened by the arrival of police in riot gear who used tear gas again after claiming they were pelted with rocks and bottles by violent demonstrators. When adrenaline is high, it’s difficult to tell who is who; so many nonviolent protesters maintain that they were assaulted by police as well.
Prior to the ugly events of the evening and early morning, the OPD issued a press release that indicated they were aware that the smaller division was responsible for the disorder, and insisted that they would grant the majority their right to continue to demonstrate. It’s almost a given that Occupy Oakland will be preparing a statement that separates them from the actions of the BlacBloc. Lastly, in addition to shutting down the port, it’s a positive sign that police and some of the media recognize the difference between dedicated protesters and self-styled anarchists living out A Clockwork Orange. Can it get crazier than this, though? We’ll find out.