Hundreds of riot police raided Occupy Oakland's encampment yesterday, deploying tear gas, flash grenades, bean bag rounds and sound cannons as they attempted to clear protesters from the plaza in front of City Hall over the course of the day.If it becomes common practice for peaceful assemblies protected by the First Amendment to be violently confronted by militarized riot police and dispersed by force, the people may well be left with no other option than to form armed militia units to confront the police in self-defense, as is our right under the Second Amendment. As John F. Kennedy famously stated, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable." Fortunately, many localities recognize the importance of accommodating people intent on exercising their First Amendment rights. In Eugene, Oregon, the city council has voted to allow demonstrators to camp at a local park, providing a waiver that exempts the demonstration from ordinances against camping. From Occupy Eugene:
Riot police assembled from over a dozen law enforcement agencies began moving in on the tent city around 4am. Hundreds of demonstrators had evacuated the plaza as word of the police action spread, but around 170 protesters remained at the encampment in an act of civil disobedience. City officials declared that the park had been "contained" by 5:30am. Dozens were arrested as police laid waste to the site over the course of the ninety minute raid. "What was left at the plaza looked like a hurricane-struck refugee camp," reported The Oakland Tribune.
The two-week old encampment had been one of the largest in the country, with hundreds of people demonstrating in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protest that began in New York City on September 17th. Last week, the city began posting notices that those who continued to camp at the plaza would be subject to arrest, citing public health and safety concerns.
"The administration has determined that facilitating this expression of speech is no longer viable, nor in the interest of public health and safety," read one notice to vacate the plaza dated October 20th, which was posted at Mother Jones.
Following the early morning raid, demonstrators regrouped and hundreds gathered later in the day, marching through downtown Oakland with the aim of re-establishing their presence in front of City Hall. They were met by riot police, leading to further clashes and scuffles, in which indiscriminate police violence led to numerous injuries. Reports indicate that two police officers and many protesters were hurt in the process. By late Tuesday evening, reports indicated that over 100 had been arrested throughout the course of the day. On the other side of the country, the New York City General Assembly at Occupy Wall Street unanimously passed a statement of solidarity in support of Occupy Oakland and denounced the heavy handed police action.
The Eugene City Council on Monday evening voted 5-3 in favor of granting Occupy Eugene formal permission to camp at Alton Baker Park through December 15. In all, 22 different speakers stood before the council to present their opinions on exempting Occupy Eugene from the city ordinance that prohibits camping within the city limits. Though there were some in opposition, the majority who spoke voiced their support for the waiver.In Albany, New York, local and state police have defied authoritarian directives from Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings demanding that protesters be forcibly removed from their encampment. Police justified their action stating that such a move would escalate the situation and lead to unnecessary violence. From the Albany Times Union:
In a tense battle of wills, state troopers and Albany police held off making arrests of dozens of protesters near the Capitol over the weekend even as Albany's mayor, under pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration, had urged his police chief to enforce a city curfew.
The situation intensified late Friday evening when Jennings, who has cultivated a strong relationship with Cuomo, directed his department to arrest protesters who refused to leave the city-owned portion of a large park that's across Washington Avenue from the Capitol and City Hall.
At the Capitol, in anticipation of possibly dozens of arrests, a State Police civil disturbance unit was quietly activated, according to officials briefed on the matter but not authorized to comment publicly. But as the curfew neared, the group of protesters estimated at several hundred moved across an invisible line in the park from state land onto city property.
"We were ready to make arrests if needed, but these people complied with our orders," a State Police official said. However, he added that State Police supported the defiant posture of Albany police leaders to hold off making arrests for the low-level offense of trespassing, in part because of concern it could incite a riot or draw thousands of protesters in a backlash that could endanger police and the public.
"We don't have those resources, and these people were not causing trouble," the official said. "The bottom line is the police know policing, not the governor and not the mayor."
A city police source said his department also was reluctant to damage what he considers to be good community relations that have taken years to rebuild. In addition, the crowd included elderly people and many others who brought their children with them.
"There was a lot of discussion about how it would look if we started pulling people away from their kids and arresting them ... and then what do we do with the children?" one officer said.