OAKLAND -- After a night of confrontations with police and 80 arrests in downtown Oakland, people on both sides of the fence were in damage-control mode, with Occupy Oakland organizers and city officials trying to figure out what to do next.
In the late morning Occupy campers met for three hours and reached an anti-vandalism consensus that will be presented at Thursday night's general assembly for a vote. They were also discussing whether to apologize for the destruction. The group decided that instead of formal apology, they would tell the busineses that they regret what happened and offer to help.
"It's not about anarchists versus liberals, it's about (expletive) versus occupy Oakland," said the meetingfacilitator.
Milani, a camper who did not want to give a last name, spoke against apologizing to businesses. She said it wasn't just outsiders committing vandalism.
"The person I saw putting toilet paper up, they're a facilitator at the general assembly. The person spray painting, they're on the events committee," she said.
Another camper disagreed, and proposed starting a "good neighbor" committee.
None who attended the meeting appeared to be the so-called black block anarchists that clashed with police and destroyed property.
After a largely peaceful, jubilant and arrest-free demonstration, teach-in and march by many as 5,000 people who descended on Frank Ogawa Plaza for Wednesday's general strike, and thousands
Protesters temporarily took over a vacant building on 16th Street, started fires and used homemade bomb launchers to fire M80s at police. Some protesters tried to calm the situation and discourage protesters from throwing rocks and bottles at police by chanting "Don't throw (crap)" and "The world is watching," but others continued to stand off with police and refused to leave despite police calling an "unlawful assembly" at midnight.
By 1 a.m. police had responded with tear gas and bean bag rounds. The action continued until 3 a.m. as police and protesters played cat-and-mouse. Both sides settled into an uneasy truce by 3:30 a.m., with a line of police facing off against a line of protesters near Frank G. Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall, until protesters began to file away in clumps. Although at one point it appeared that police were ready to move in on the encampment, where about 100 tents have sprung up since the Oct. 25 police raid, that did not happen.
"We are aware of people bent on causing problems, and we're taking steps to address those problems," Jordan said early Thursday.
In all, more than
Thursday morning, city crews set about cleaning up the city's beleaguered downtown, where broken glass, graffiti and debris covered almost every surface near the corner of 14th and Broadway.
And once again, many small business owners were stuck dealing with the aftermath: shattered glass from smashed windows, graffiti, and theft. People who work downtown walked around garbage and stared in dismay at the destruction and violent messages scrawled across nearly every building at 14th and Broadway.
For some, it was a disheartening turn of events after
"When I went home last night, I thought everything was fine and dandy," Bailey said.
He woke up, turned on the news, and felt a surge of disappointment. "It had to be a totally different group or something," he said.
Cortt Dunlap, owner of Awaken Café at Frank Ogawa Plaza, had a similar assessment.
"It's really two different groups," he
That struggle was evident even in the graffiti and signs that appeared at the epicenter of the movement. On one wall, someone had painted, "not until the last capitalist is hung with the entrails of the last bureaucrat." Next to it was a red heart with this message: "Nonviolence works better."
Dunlap said employees at Awaken Café were in full support of Wednesday's general strike; while the cafe stayed open, the employees donated their wages to the Ella Baker Center and the Alameda County Food Bank.
Then, at 4 a.m., he learned that a window had been shattered at the locally owned clothing cooperative on Broadway, Oakollectiv, that shares Awaken's new space. He headed over to help put up plywood, and Dunlap said that some of the Occupy Oakland demonstrators stood by the broken window and texted the owner about the damage, and that others helped to clean up the mess.
Tully's Coffee in Frank Ogawa Plaza had also closed in support of the strike, but windows were smashed there, as well as at City Hall. One meeting room, renamed after Sgt. Ervin Romans, one of four Oakland police officers killed by a parolee on Mar. 21, 2009, had a window smashed by a rock.
Zachary Britton, 28, of Santa Rosa, stared at the smashed-out window of Tully's Coffee Thursday morning, holding a folded-up poster he made for the protest.
"This is a small business. They're living paycheck to paycheck. It's just horrible," he said.
Like so many 20-somethings, Britton is out of work. He came to Oakland on Wednesday because he believes the nation's economic policies bear responsibility for the state in which so many of his peers are living: unemployed, with massive student loan debt, and living with their parents. It was his first time participating in any Occupy movement, and he said it might be his last.
"If it's going to be like this, I don't think so," he said.
Tom Johnson, a Clorox employee from Marin County, walked up Broadway Thursday morning, unsure whether his building would be open. He said he supported some of the movement's ideals. "For years, people have just been suffering and not doing anything about it and not saying anything about it," he said.
Still, he said, he felt the message was not clear. And while he sees the vandalism as an expression of deep frustration, he believes it will further muddy the purpose of the movement for those not directly involved.
Kathy Thrasher, of Alameda, works in a building adjacent to the Wells Fargo branch on 12th and Broadway. She worked from home on Wednesday and surveyed the damage as she walked through Frank Ogawa Plaza Thursday morning.
Thrasher said it always seems like a small number of people take advantage of a mass gathering to cause destruction. "I think they're ruining the message," she said.
Earlier, some of the protesters that had been involved in the early morning ruckus downtown decided to continue their strike action at the Port of Oakland, causing a tense scene and confrontations at the port entrance at Adeline and 3rd streets.
Truckers faced off with about a dozen protesters who erected a chain-link fence across four lanes of traffic and reinforced it with Dumpsters to keep truckers and port employees out. At one point while the barricade was up, one driver ran through it and said he would run down the protesters. In response, a female protester yelled "You are trying to hurt us over your job? For money? Really?"
Another driver got out of his truck and confronted the protesters. One of the female protesters told him, "Don't touch me or I'm going to call the police." The police never showed up.
The protesters removed the fences about 9 a.m. after meeting with ILWU President Richard Mead, who appealed to their sense of fairness after they were told the dockworkers would not receive their full day's pay if they couldn't get to work. The protesters then fanned out to other entrances at the port to picket.
Isaac Kos-Read, director of external affairs at the port said the marine terminals were up and running Thursday after thousands of protesters managed to shut down the port Wednesday night. He said there were no injuries during Wednesday night's occupation. He also said that the demonstration prevented longshoremen from working the second and third shifts, and continued disruption to port operations will hurt employees and the already struggling economy.
"Any additional missed shifts represent economic hardship for maritime workers, truckers, and their families, as well as lost jobs and lost tax revenue for our region," Kos-Read said. "Continued disruptions will begin to lead to rerouting of cargo and permanent loss of jobs, a situation that would only exacerbate the ongoing economic challenges of our region."
Early in the chaos Mayor Jean Quan asked protesters to call her and gave them her phone number; there was no word whether Quan had been called by protesters. Before the building takeover shortly before midnight Wednesday, Quan said she was happy the crowd -- which police estimate hit 7,000 people at one point -- protested all day with only a small amount of destruction and violence.
Oakland is being watched worldwide as one of the largest and possibly the most volatile Occupy movements around the globe.
On Oct. 25, 1,000 people marched in the streets, threw bottles and rocks at police and clashed with officers, who launched projectiles and tear-gas into the crowd. A former Marine, Scott Olsen, 24, was struck in the head and suffered a fractured skull. The clashes followed a predawn raid on the Occupy Oakland encampment, where police overturned tents, ripped down signs and arrested scores of protesters.
Since then, however, the camp was allowed to come back and police have been totally hands off.
Jordan said that Wednesday's plan for the general strike was to facilitate a peaceful march, with police staying out of sight as long as protesters maintained control.
The general strike was called by Occupy Oakland and supported by residents, a few small businesses, labor unions, teachers and nurses with the California Nurses Association. It was intended to shut down the city for the day in a rally cry against corporate greed, widespread unemployment and wage inequality.
Throughout the day Wednesday several banks and the Whole Foods Market on Bay Street were vandalized. At the Whole Foods at 27th and Bay streets, a splinter group wearing black clothing and face masks threw paint balls, left graffiti, tore up a fence and broke a window before the larger crowd turned on them and forced them to stop. About 75 people were inside the store at the time. No injuries were reported.
There were also some unhappy truckers at the port when the protesters blocked the roadways.
"To me this is all (baloney)," said Sam, who declined to give his last name, but said he is a hauler for NevCal Trucking out of Reno and picked up a container at PortsAmerica terminal Wednesday afternoon. When he tried to leave, the exit gate manned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection had closed early because of the impending protest.
"These people are out here trying to make a living. I get paid per run, I don't get paid by the hour,'' he said. "My opinion? The 1 percent down here is protesting, the 99 percent is down here working."
At least 200 city workers took Wednesday off, about 5 percent of the city's entire workforce. Other city and port workers were sent home early as the crowd of demonstrators swelled to about 5,000 downtown.
For much of the afternoon the large crowd split off into separate marches, with some staying at the Occupy Oakland camp at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza and participating in teach-ins and sit-ins, and others marching and protesting.
At the plaza, members of the Alameda Labor Council served free hot dogs, hamburgers, veggie dogs and veggie burgers to a ravenous crowd and had given away more than 4,000 meals. Firefighters from the City of Alameda with Alameda Local 689 worked the massive charcoal grills while other volunteers began picking up the mountains of trash overflowing from garbage bins.
"It's been exciting. There's been great energy all day," said Josie Camacho, secretary-treasurer of the Alameda Labor Council.