It appeared protesters and gas mask-wearing police officers would clash again Saturday night on Oakland streets, four days after a violent police crackdown shoved the Occupy Oakland movement into the international spotlight, but, just as emotions peaked, organizers held up peace signs.
Marchers turned around, patted themselves on the back and returned to their adopted home, Frank H. Ogawa Plaza.
Saturday's near-confrontation happened on another roller-coaster day for Occupy Oakland: Someone created and circulated a fake letter and website in the name of Jean Quan, the embattled mayor; protesters planned for a citywide work stoppage Wednesday; and an injured war veteran and protester changed hospitals.
The night appeared set to spiral out of control shortly after 8 p.m. as an anti-police violence rally wrapped up and protesters picked up signs and headed toward Oakland Police Department headquarters.
Officers had not been seen all day, but lines of riot police wearing gas masks began flanking the marchers until Seventh and Clay streets, less than two blocks from police headquarters. Marchers stopped and began taunting the police, but just as emotions reached a fevered pitch, organizers announced: "Peace people to the front!" Numerous march organizers walked in between the police and protesters, faced the marchers and held up peace signs with both hands.
After a few minutes, the march retraced its steps and snaked its way back in
Sporadically, on the return to the plaza, protesters tagged anti-cop graffiti with spray paint and smashed parking meters despite organizers' pleas, and as they returned to City Hall someone busted a window of the Oakland police recruitment center. Police appeared to escort the group from afar and did not intervene.
The rest of Saturday was not nearly as tense, but Quan's difficult week continued as someone created a fake website and circulated a bogus letter on city letterhead with her forged signature, saying the mayor apologized for "ordering" last week's "violent repression" of the first Occupy Oakland camp.
Using public health and safety to justify the raid "reached the height of absurdity," and Quan had "a change of heart," the hoax letter said. The document -- posted on a fake-but-professional-looking website (http://oaklandmayor.com) -- also says she heartily endorses the general strike.
Quan's spokeswoman, Sue Piper, quickly sent out a statement disavowing the letter.
"It is completely fabricated," the statement read. "Any official announcement from the Mayor or city of Oakland is posted on the city's website at www.oaklandnet.com and sent directly to the media."
No one has taken responsibility for creating the hoax site, but protesters and others around the country have criticized and questioned the mayor since Tuesday's police crackdown on the camp. In response, Oakland City Council members scheduled a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. Thursday asking the public to weigh in on the Occupy Oakland movement and demonstrations to develop a strategy to keep them peaceful.
It was also announced that former Marine and Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, 24, who was seriously injured by what witnesses said was a tear-gas canister fired by police Tuesday, has been moved from Highland Hospital in Oakland to an undisclosed medical facility, where he is still in fair condition, a hospital spokesman said.
On Saturday, filmmaker Michael Moore, fresh off his Friday visit to Oakland, drove across the Bay Bridge and visited the San Francisco encampment in Justin Herman Plaza, where he rallied protesters.
During the day in Oakland, protesters prepared for Wednesday's proposed general strike, canvassing business districts from Chinatown to the Fruitvale district to involve merchants and residents, urging them to close their doors, stay home from work and gather in downtown Oakland in a massive show of solidarity. The general assembly voted to picket any business that punishes an employee for walking out.
City Administrator Deanna Santana said she released a memo to workers saying that if they would like to honor the general strike they would have to go through the formal process and get supervisor approval but could use a sick day or furlough day.
Staff writer Cecily Burt and the Associated Press contributed to this report.