OccupyOakland protestors repeatedly clashed with law enforcement officials over the weekend, who responded with tear gas and non-lethal bean bags.
The skirmishes erupted after demonstrators attempted to enter an abandoned convention center near downtown, and continued inside a local YMCA and City Hall which was ultimately vandalized.
Glass casings and windows were broken, while two stolen American flags were burned on the front steps during the fracas.
“It’s like a tantrum,” Oakland Mayor Jean Quan told the SF Chronicle. “They’re treating [Oakland] like a playground.”
However, some OWS protestors disagreed with Quan’s characterization of the movement, accusing police of using batons, beanbag bullets and tear gas without justification.
“Whatever qualms people have with Occupy Oakland, it’s the police who have committed the most egregious violence,” claimed Scott Johnson, a 34-year-old Oakland resident. “They instigated the violence by not allowing us to take over an unused building.”
Meanwhile, Tim Simons told the Oakland Tribune the most severe confrontation had occurred near the abandoned convention center, where he said police badly beat numerous protesters in “maybe the most serious clash” he’d ever seen.
“After that, the gloves were off, from the police perspective…If the police are going to militarize a situation, these are the results,” he added.
Nevertheless, a number of protestors said they believe the building takeover attempts were poorly planned, and emphasized that they did not condone vandalizing City Hall or throwing rocks and bottles at law enforcement officials.
“Today we need to clean up again,” Rachel Dorney told the Chron. “I know that people are pissed at the cops and that’s how they act out, but it just hurts Oakland.”
During a news conference, Oakland Police Department (OPD) spokesperson Officer Johnna Watson displayed items allegedly confiscated from OWS protestors, including knives, mace, scissors and a tear gas canister, as well as a large shield, measuring 7 feet wide and 4 feet tall, with corrugated metal siding over a wood frame.
“They’re well-built, they’re maneuverable and they’re effective,” Watson said. “We have to change our police strategies. [Clearly], this is new territory for law enforcement.”