Occupiers Rousted from Protest Shantytown
OAKLAND, Calif. --- Under cover of darkness early Tuesday, hundreds of police swept into Oakland's Occupy Wall Street protest, firing tear gas and beanbag rounds before clearing out an encampment that demonstrators had hoped would stir a revolution.
In less than an hour, the two-week-old, miniature makeshift city was in ruins.
Scattered across the area were overturned tents, pillows, sleeping bags, yoga mats, tarps, backpacks, food wrappers and water bottles. Signs decrying corporations and police still hung from lampposts or lay on the ground.
Protesters had stayed awake through the night, waiting for the expected raid. Officers and sheriff's deputies from across the San Francisco Bay area surrounded the plaza in front of city hall at around 5 a.m. and closed in. Eighty-five people were arrested, mostly on suspicion of misdemeanor unlawful assembly and illegal camping, police said.
About 170 protesters were at the site, but no one was injured, Interim Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said at a news conference following the raid.
"I'm very pleased with the way things went,'' Jordan said.
Television news footage showed protesters being taken away in plastic handcuffs without incident, though some protesters complained of rough handling by police.
Officers fired tear gas and bean bags when one group of demonstrators pelted officers with rocks and bottles near the camp's kitchen area, Jordan said.
"It was definitely chaos. People didn't want to get gassed,'' said protester Anthony Owens, 40, a computer programmer from Oakland who was at the scene when police moved in but was not arrested.
Some people in the camp left as word spread about possible police action, Owens said. Many of the remaining protesters locked arms and shouted as officers surrounded the plaza and moved in.
Witnesses reported seeing smoke rising from the area. The plaza was "contained'' at around 5:30 a.m., city officials said.
By midmorning, city workers had started collecting the debris. some would be held for protesters to reclaim, the rest would be thrown away, the city said.