Real battles took place last night between police and Occupy Oakland protesters after officers fired tear gas into a crowd trying to reclaim an encampment.
Police had cleared the site of Occupy Oakland protesters around 12 hours earlier in a dawn raid where at least 97 people were arrested.
Authorities gave repeated warnings to protesters to disperse from the entrance to Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland before firing tear gas canisters into the crowd at 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday evening. Police officers reported that some protesters had been throwing rocks.
Police officers had announced on Tuesday night over a loudspeaker that Occupy Oakland protesters who refused to leave could be targeted by “chemical agents”.
It was reported that one woman in a wheelchair, who was struggling to breathe, had to be helped away by friends while another woman, hit by a canister, was carried off.
One of the protesters, Jerry Smith, 35, said a tear gas canister had rolled to his feet and sprayed him directly in the face.
“I got the feeling they meant business, but people were not going to be intimidated. We can do this peacefully, but still not back down.”
Demonstrators were trying to make good on a vow to retake an encampment that Occupy Oakland activists had remained in for 15 days, until police evicted them early on Tuesday.
Yesterday evening demonstration started around 5:00 p.m., when about 400 people began marching from a public library toward the plaza which police had surrounded.
Some of the Occupy Oakland demonstrators threw turquoise and red paint at the riot police officers’ faces and helmets while others pleaded for a peaceful protest.
Police was denying reports that officers used flash bang canisters to help break up the crowd, saying the loud noises came from firecrackers thrown at police by protesters.
The number of people protesting was diminished with each round of tear gas. Authorities estimated that there were roughly 1,000 demonstrators at the first clash following the march.
In the end, about 200 remained around 11:15 p.m. on Tuesday night, mostly young adults, some riding bicycles, protecting themselves from the noxious fumes with bandanas and scarves wrapped around their faces.
According to police, two officers were injured and 97 people were arrested in the Tuesday morning raid on the camp.
Last week, city staff warned the protesters that they might have to shut down the site, where camping and cooking is exacerbating an existing rat problem in the centre.
The situation has been aggravated by the extra food and people in the area according to Oakland officials.
In the same time, Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York have been treated to gourmet restaurant meals and organic take-away food, but conditions in the Oakland camp are thought to have become unsavoury as the tented town became semi-permanent.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said in a statement:
“Over the last week it was apparent that neither the demonstrators nor the city could maintain safe or sanitary conditions, or control the ongoing vandalism.”
Once the site was cleaned, it is expected to be reopened and Occupy Oakland demonstrators will be free to use it for daytime demonstrations.