The peace that brought more than 7, 000 people out for a day of strike and demonstrations lasted until about 9 pm, when some of the demonstrators who returned to "Oscar Grant Plaza" decided next steps were to occupy a mostly empty downtown office building. In efforts to evict them, sometime around 10:30 pm police in riot gear began to mass and soon fired tear gas at the group and others nearby. By midnight, a violent confrontation was taking place.
Discussing yesterday's events, some Occupy Oakland members are wondering whether the violent elements--those who smashed property and vandalized buildings--were part of the organizing core. Participants in the Facebook page expressed frustration that people who started destructive behavior were unfamiliar to them and expressed a wish for more organizational self-policing. The police used tear gas three times during the evening--first at 12:30 am at the occupied Traveller's Building on 16th Street, then again at the nearby barricade, and finally around 1:30 am, at "Oscar Grant Plaza." Three banks were damaged during the day– Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America – and Whole Foods was vandalized, but events were mostly peaceful,with some participants expressing frustration at the behavior of others.
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Susan Mernit is the founder of Oakland Local. She is also a circuit rider for The Community Information Challenge, a program of The John S and James L Knight Foundation, and a consultant to non-profit and community organizations.
Reprinted by permission of Oakland Local, oaklandlocal.com.